TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Following the United States’ announced eviction of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, China is likely to strike back by shutting down the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, the South China Morning Post reported Thursday (July 23).
The report described the Chengdu office as strategically important because it services Tibet as well as the heavily populated areas of Sichuan and Chongqing.
Initial reports had suggested China might close the U.S. consulate in Wuhan but because the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic already caused its activities to be downgraded, the message it would send to Washington would not be clear enough, Chinese commentators said. Another possibility could be the closure of the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong, where China’s new national security act has led to an escalation of tension between the two countries.
The U.S. also has consulates in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenyang, as well as its embassy in Beijing. The Chengdu office was opened in 1985 and gained prominence when a former police chief in Chongqing entered the location in an attempt to seek refuge in 2012.
He later left the consulate and was sentenced to 15 years in prison on corruption and defection charges. The case led to the fall of Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing party chief, in one of the largest political crises in recent Chinese history. Bo, once seen as a future Communist Party leader, was sentenced to life in prison.
The current consulate crisis started when reports emerged of a fire at the Chinese consulate in Houston, which turned out to be officials burning supposed classified documents. China later accused the Trump Administration of demanding the consulate’s eviction by late Friday (July 24).
The Department of State confirmed this accusation, stating that Beijing was using the Houston office as a center for espionage.