TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As news broke on Wednesday (July 22) that the U.S. government had ordered the immediate closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, videos have surfaced showing a fire in the back, potentially indicating the last-ditch effort to burn sensitive documents.
On Tuesday (July 21), Houston authorities received reports of a fire breaking out behind the Chinese consulate, but firefighters were unable to enter the building as China holds sovereignty. The Houston Chronicle cited witnesses as saying that they had seen personnel apparently burning paper in trash cans.
According to the New York Times, the Trump administration ordered Chinese diplomats to leave the consulate by Friday (July 24). The U.S. last week announced that it is considering banning all 92 million members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In a brief statement, State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said the U.S. government had ordered the closure "to protect American intellectual property and American’s private information." She added that "The United States will not tolerate the PRC’s violations of our sovereignty and intimidation of our people, just as we have not tolerated the PRC’s unfair trade practices, theft of American jobs, and other egregious behavior."
At a daily briefing on Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin condemned the action by saying “The unilateral closure of China’s consulate general in Houston within a short period of time is an unprecedented escalation of its recent actions against China." Hu Xijin, an editor with China's state-run mouthpiece The Global Times, on Weibo called the 72-hour closure notice a "crazy move" and said that "It seems that Washington has no bottom line."
The following are videos posted on Twitter appearing to show Chinese staffers of the Houston consulate burning documents:
Houston firefighters are responding to reports of people burning documents and papers at the Chinese consulate. pic.twitter.com/qKZLqn5Ui8— Alex Salvi (@alexsalvinews) July 22, 2020
#US ordered #CCP to close its consulate in #Houston "to protect American intellectual property and American's private information." Firefighters were called to the consulate shortly after the closure order, where documents were burned but were not allowed to enter the building. pic.twitter.com/gDb49PnMDl— Jennifer Zeng 曾錚 (@jenniferatntd) July 22, 2020