US shut China’s Houston consulate as ‘message’ to stop spying: official
WASHINGTON, July 24, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – The US ordered China to shut
its consulate in Houston as a message to Beijing to reel in its
operations to steal US science and technology secrets, a senior State
Department official said Friday.
“There comes a time when you have to say, enough is enough,” said
the official, who insisted on anonymity.
Beijing has “egregiously abused its free and open access” to US
society by running operations to illegally collect US intellectual
property, the official said.
“Houston is a firm demonstration that we are serious.”
On Tuesday the State Department ordered the consulate in the
largest city in Texas closed, giving Beijing until Friday to complete
Trucks have been arriving day and night to remove possessions and
equipment, and on Wednesday plumes of smoke were seen coming from the
building, suggesting Chinese officials were burning documents.
Early Friday numerous Chinese officials, all wearing coronavirus
masks, were seen loading large bags on to U-Haul trucks and throwing
away bags in nearby trash bins.
A Justice Department official told reporters, also on grounds of
anonymity, that while the United States expects some efforts at
espionage and intellectual property theft from foreign missions, the
activities from Houston “went well over the line.”
They included directing Chinese students and researchers on what
kinds of information and technology to obtain, recruiting Americans to
their technology program, and targetting Chinese dissidents residing
in the United States.
The public examples of such behavior, known from a series of
criminal cases over the past three years, “are merely the tip of the
iceberg” of what is known to US intelligence, the Justice official
A US intelligence official told reporters that the science and
technology “collectors” at the Houston consulate “were particularly
aggressive, and successful.”
Early Friday, Beijing retaliated by ordering the United States to
close its consulate in Chengdu, Sichuan province.