China says it has taken control of the former U.S. consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu, in a tit-for-tat response to the closure of its consulate last week in Houston, Texas.
The foreign ministry announced that the consulate shut its doors at 10 a.m. (0200GMT) local time, the exact time Chinese authorities ordered its closure and just moments after the U.S. flag was lowered for the last time. Minutes later, a group of officials entered the building and took over the premises.
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing bid farewell to the Chengdu outpost in a retrospective video posted on its Twitter account, saying “We will miss you forever.”
今天，我们告别美国驻成都总领事馆 。我们会永远想念你们。 pic.twitter.com/sV2fe9KVPJ— 美国驻华使领馆 US MissionCN (@USA_China_Talk) July 27, 2020
Ahead of its closure, a tight security presence surrounded the consulate Sunday as the staff prepared to leave the premises.
Three moving trucks were seen entering the building compound, while uniformed and plainclothes police lined both sides of the street, which were lined with metal barriers.
China charged that some personnel at the Chengdu consulate were "conducting activities not in line with their identities."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said such activity had interfered in China's affairs and harmed its security interest without giving any details.
China’s order to close the consulate in Chengdu was issued last Friday in retaliation for a U.S. order to close the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas.
Washington ordered China to close the Houston office "to protect American intellectual property and Americans' private information."
As the Chinese consulate closure in Houston took effect last Friday, a group of men who appeared to be U.S. officials were seen breaking-in to the facility through a back door.
Wang said on Saturday that violated international and bilateral agreements and China would respond, without specifying how.
The tit-for-tat closures further escalated the tensions between the two countries over issues from trade and industrial espionage to human rights.