The United States government has abruptly ordered China to “cease all operations and events” at its consulate in Houston, Texas, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, in what it called an “unprecedented escalation” in recent actions taken by Washington.
Late Tuesday evening, police in Houston said they responded to reports of smoke in the courtyard outside the consulate, located on Montrose Boulevard, in the city’s Midtown area. Local media shared video of what appeared to be officials inside the compound burning documents.
US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the consulate was directed to close “in order to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information” but did not immediately provide additional details of what prompted the closure. Chinese media reported that the consulate had been given 72 hours to close.
Relations between China and the United States have plummeted in the past year, amid an ongoing trade war, the coronavirus pandemic, and US criticism of China’s human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.