U.S. Orders Closure of Chinese Consulate in Houston, Residents Call Fire Department in Response to Burning of Documents

Chinese flag by Craig Nagy is licensed under Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

The U.S. on Tuesday ordered the Chinese Consulate in Houston to close within 72 hours, citing “massive illegal spying and influence operations” conducted by China.

Neighboring residents subsequently called Houston firefighters after consulate workers apparently began burning documents in the courtyard of the compound. Firefighters were unable to intervene because the consulate operates under Chinese jurisdiction.

“The People’s Republic of China has engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations throughout the United States against U.S. government officials and American citizens,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. The closure would “protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.”

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), acting head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, commented on Twitter,  “China’s consulate in Houston is not a diplomatic facility. It is the central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies & influence operations in the United States. Now that building must close & the spies have 72 hours to leave or face arrest.”