CHENGDU (dpa-AFX) – After the closure of the American consulate in Chengdu in the southwest of the country, the Chinese authorities took over the building again on Monday morning. The deadline for elimination had expired shortly before. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the US consulate is closed. “Officials entered the building through the main entrance and took over the area,” said a spokesman. In the morning at 6.24 a.m. local time (00.24 CEST), the US flag had been collected on the building.
Chinese employees had also left the consulate in the early hours of the morning, as can be seen in Chinese television reports. Security forces in uniform and civilian barriers blocked off the streets around the agency in the morning. Neither journalists nor onlookers were allowed to approach. Before that, trucks had driven away containers. The day before, many onlookers had gathered in front of the building.
The consulate, which opened in 1985, normally employed around 200 people, including around 150 locally hired Chinese forces. How many US diplomats were last in Chengdu is unclear, as the consulate may not have been fully staffed due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to unconfirmed media reports. After the closure, the United States now has four consulates in the People’s Republic and one in Hong Kong.
In retaliation for last week’s surprising US decision to close the Chinese consulate in the city of Houston, Texas, the Chinese government had asked the US to stop operating its Chengdu office and withdraw its diplomats from there. It has been described as a “legitimate and necessary response to the unreasonable US approach”.
Both sides accuse each other of unlawful acts, espionage and interference in internal affairs. There is another escalation in the already tense relationship. The Gromchte are also in dispute over China’s handling of the Corona virus outbreak, the trade war, and tough Chinese practices in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. The situation is as bad as it has been since diplomatic relations began in 1979.
“Both sides will lose if relations between the US and China continue to deteriorate,” commented the reporter on state television, commenting on the closure live on the broadcaster’s English-language CGTN channel, which can also be seen in the US./lw/DP/zb