(TibetanReview.net, Jul24’20) – China has on Jul 24 ordered the United States to close its consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu in a tit-for-tat retaliation for Washington’s Jul 21 demand that the Chinese diplomatic outpost in Houston shut down amid accusations of espionage. The choice of the Chengdu office, rather than those in Hong Kong or Wuhan, which has also been touted, is seen as retaliation for recent US actions on the Tibet issue.
The American Consulate in Chengdu oversees the functioning of several provinces in the People’s Republic of China, including the Tibet Autonomous Region. It is believed that China has taken this step in view of the American step towards Tibet, noted the pledgetimes.com Jul 24.
The US consulate in Chengdu opened in 1985 and is strategically important as it covers the country’s southwestern region, including the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Tibet autonomous region, and Chongqing, the scmp.com noted Jul 23.
The report noted that the consulate became widely known when Wang Lijun, former police chief and vice mayor of Chongqing, travelled there on Feb 6, 2012, in an attempt to defect after falling out with former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai. Bo was a principal rival of current President Xi Jinping to succeed then President Hu Jintao but is now serving a life sentence, as is his wife Gu Kailai.
Closing down a foreign diplomatic mission is seen as an unprecedented escalation of tension between nations, noted the scmp.com Jul 24. One previous example occurred in 1962, it said, when the Indian consulate in Lhasa, Tibet, was shut down after a war between China and India.
“This week we closed down China’s consulate in Houston because it was a hub of spying and intellectual property theft,” the AFP Jul 24 quoted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as saying in a California speech on China’s threat to the world.
“China ripped off our prized intellectual property and trade secrets costing millions of jobs across America” he was quoted as saying.
China, on the other hand, said its action was in retaliation for the US move. “The measure taken by China is a legitimate and necessary response to the unjustified act by the United States. It conforms with international law, the basic norms of international relations, and customary diplomatic practices,” China’s official Xinhua news agency Jul 24 quoted the Chinese Foreign Ministry as saying in a statement.
The closure of the Chengdu consulate should be completed by Jul 27, which is 72 hours after the order was made – the same time frame given by the US for the shutdown of the Chinese Houston office.
However, while ordering the closing down of the US consulate in Chengdu, the head of the Chinese consulate in Houston would not commit to closing the office – a direct threat of defiance to the State Department’s demand that it be shut down by Jul 24, noted the scmp.com in another report Jul 24.
“Today we are still operating normally, so we will see what will happen tomorrow,” he was quoted as saying, declining to elaborate further.
Nepal is currently the country to operate a Consulate anywhere in Tibet. The US has been seeking to open one in Lhasa, including by trying to make it a condition for the opening of any new Chinese Consulate in the country.