Security was tight outside the US consulate in the Chinese city of Chengdu as workers inside were ready to depart, the day after China ordered it to close in response to a US request that China shut down its consulate in Houston.
Tit-for – tat consulate closures have led to a rapid deterioration in relations between the two largest economies in the world. The consulate logo inside the compound was gone as the workers could be seen moving the trolleys and several consulate vehicles were coming and going.
Officers, including several plain clothes officers, assembled outside and closed off the street to traffic. Neither the consulate in the south-western Chinese city nor the US embassy in Beijing have responded to requests from Reuters for comment on the closure.
The Chinese order to close it was retribution after the Trump administration gave China until 4 pm last Friday to vacate its consulate in the Texas city. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the consulate had become a center of espionage and intellectual property theft.
The consulate opened in 1985 and has almost 200 employees, including around 150 locally employed workers, according to its website. It was not immediately clear how many are there now after US diplomats were evacuated from China because of the pandemic.
A constant stream of people walked along the street opposite the entrance during the day, many stopping to take pictures or videos before police pushed them on. At the Houston consulate, workers packed up belongings followed by jeering demonstrators. Soon after the closure order took effect a group of people who seemed to be US officials were seen pushing open a back door to the plant.
Residents in Chengdu expressed mixed views on the closure of the US consulate in the area.