Consulate closures: comparison of actions in Chengdu and Houston

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Closure of US Consulate General in Chengdu

At dawn on Monday July 27th, the American flag outside the consulate in Chengdu, China was lowered while police held back crowds that had gathered over the weekend to watch. At 10am, the mission was closed.

The closure was covered extensively by Chinese state media, with videos and photos from the scene.

Police in Chengdu restricted access to the area around the consulate on Monday morning, and four officials in personal protective gear were seen walking towards the consulate at about 10:30am local time.

On Saturday evening, a worker could be seen using tools including a hammer and chisel to remove fittings around a plaque outside the main entrance.

Moving trucks arrived at the US consulate on Sunday afternoon and left a few hours later. Late at night, flatbed trailers entered the complex. One later emerged carrying a large shipping container and a crane.

At a short but solemn event of honor and dignity, a marine officer hands over the US flag to the Consul General Jim Mullinax, speaking “As detachment commander, and on behalf of the marine security guard detachment in Chengdu, China, I hereby officially retire our national colors and present them to you in recognition of the official closure of the United States Consulate in Chengdu, Chin, effective 10 hours, this 27th day of July, in the year of our Lord 2020.”

On July 27, 2020, the national flag of US was lowered at the Consulate General in Chengdu at 6:18 AM local time.

The US mission in China posted a video on Twitter of footage of the consulate’s history, since its opening in 1985 by then vice-president George HW Bush, with the message: “Today, we bid farewell to the US consulate general in Chengdu. We will forever miss you.”

Closure of the Chinese Consulate General in Houston

U.S. officials took over the Chinese consulate in Houston last Friday afternoon, less than an hour after the eviction deadline ordered by the Trump Administration.

Forty minutes after the 4 p.m. eviction deadline passed, a man believed to be a State Department official entered the consulate, along with others, after a small back door was pried open. Officials had earlier tried three separate entrances, but were not able to gain entry. Security teams, wearing shirts emblazoned with the words U.S. Department of State, stood watch at the back entrance. The fire department also entered and exited the consulate.

Late on Friday evening, a State Department spokesperson said: “We can confirm that the PRC Consulate General in Houston is closed.”

Before the closure, Chinese consulate staff packed up belongings watched by jeering protesters. Trucks and cars were later seen moving out of the premises.

Firefighters had reportedly been called to the building because papers were being burned, after the US gave consular workers three days to shut down the office.

The US alleged that the Houston consulate was a nest of Chinese spies who tried to steal data from facilities in Texas, including the Texas A&M medical system and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The activities in Houston “are a microcosm, we believe, of a broader network of individuals in more than 25 cities. That network is supported through the consulates here,” the Justice Department has told.

There were about 60 Chinese officials at the Houston consulate, a State Department official said.”They will have to evacuate the embassy by this afternoon. All the officials, along with their families, have 30 days to leave the country.”

There were no reports of the whereabouts of its consul general Cai Wei. A consulate staff surnamed Mr. Zeng was said to surrender himself to FBI.

By Winnie Troppie

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