China is moving to close the US consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu in retaliation for the forced closure of the Chinese diplomatic facility in Houston on Tuesday, according to a source briefed on the decision.
Washington maintains five consulates on the Chinese mainland – in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang, Chengdu and Wuhan – as well as a consulate general for Hong Kong and Macau. The closure of the Chengdu facility is expected to escalate tensions between China and the US.
China vowed to retaliate after the US closed its Houston consulate to “protect Americans’ intellectual property and private information”. There were initial suggestions that the US consulate in Wuhan would be targeted by Beijing for closure.
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Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the nationalist tabloid Global Times, said China would take countermeasures but that closing the Wuhan consulate would not be strong enough as the US had already evacuated staff during the Covid-19 pandemic. China would probably “think out of the box” in its retaliation, Hu said.
The US consulate in Chengdu opened in 1985 and is strategically important as it covers the country’s southwestern region, including the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Tibet autonomous region, and Chongqing.
The consulate became widely known when Wang Lijun, former police chief and vice mayor of Chongqing, travelled there on February 6, 2012, in an attempt to defect after falling out with former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai.
Wang reportedly “left of his own volition” after 30 hours inside the building and later reported giving evidence which incriminated Bo at a meeting with US consular officials during his time there.
That set off China’s biggest political crisis in decade. Bo was sacked and later sentenced to life in prison for bribery, abuse of power and corruption. Bo’s wife Gu Kailai was given a suspended death sentence for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. Wang was jailed for 15 years for abuse of power, bribery and defection.
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More from South China Morning Post:
- Beijing’s Houston consulate is ‘epicentre’ of theft of research by Chinese military, US diplomat says
- Beijing envoy says Washington must decide if it is ready to accept rise of China
- Houston consulate general offices a long-time landmark of US-China relations
- US-China relations: forced closure of Houston consulate could cause lasting damage, observers say
This article US consulate in Chengdu prime target for China retaliation over Houston first appeared on South China Morning Post