BEIJING: China ordered the United States to close its consulate in the city of Chengdu on Friday, responding to a U.S. demand this week that China closes its Houston consulate, as relations between the world’s two largest economies deteriorate.
The order to close the consulate in Chengdu, in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, was seen as roughly reciprocal in terms of scale and impact, continuing China’s recent practice of like-for-like responses to U.S. actions.
China had warned it would retaliate after it was unexpectedly given 72 hours – until Friday – to vacate its Houston consulate, and had urged the United States to reconsider.
“The U.S. move seriously breached international law, the basic norms of international relations, and the terms of the China-U.S. Consular Convention. It gravely harmed China-U.S. relations,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China informed the U.S. Embassy in China of its decision to withdraw its consent for the establishment and operation of the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu,” it said.
The consulate opened in 1985 and has almost 200 employees including about 150 locally hired staff, according to its website. It was not immediately clear how many are there now after a significant number of U.S. diplomats were evacuated from China during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak.
The consulate was given 72 hours to close, or until 10 a.m. on Monday, the editor of the Global Times newspaper said on Twitter.
The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to requests for comment.