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American agents enter Chinese consulate compound in Houston after deadline to close building passes

ANI | Updated: Jul 25, 2020 12:28 IST

Houston [United States], July 25 (ANI): American federal agents and local law enforcement personnel entered the Chinese consulate compound in Houston on Friday afternoon (local time) following Tuesday's order to down shutters on the diplomatic facility.
This came after US officials alleged that the consulate in Houston was part of a larger Chinese espionage effort through misuse of diplomatic channels.
A convoy of black trucks, two white vans, SUVs and a locksmith's van entered the property as a crowd of observers and news cameras observed from the edge of the diplomatic compound, CNN reported Saturday.
The US officials speaking to reporters yesterday said that the consulate had been blamed in a fraud investigation at a Texas research institute saying that the officials of the Chinese consulate "were directly involved in communications with researchers and guided them on what information to collect".
According to the Chinese foreign ministry, the US on Tuesday had given China 3 days to "cease and desist" all operations and events at the facility in Houston. China termed the move an "unprecedented situation of escalation" amid the ongoing tension between the two nations.

US- China relations have plummeted since last year, caught between an ongoing trade war, the coronavirus pandemic, and America's critical stance on China's human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
Washington's demand for the Houston consulate to be closed set the stage for federal agents to gain access to the diplomatic compound on Friday afternoon. It also triggered a Chinese demand of the US to close its consulate in the central Chinese city of Chengdu.
US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said that the consulate was directed to be closed "in order to protect American intellectual property and Americans' private information".
The idea to close the Houston consulate emerged this spring after China interfered when US officials returned to their consulate in Wuhan to retrieve diplomatic materials, according to a senior State Department official.
Chinese authorities had refused to let the US officials leave Wuhan with their pouches, saying that they had to search the American officials before leaving. This was seen by the US as an aggressive move that violated the Vienna Convention which governs diplomatic relations. (ANI)