The U.S. government has given China 72 hours to evacuate its consulate in Houston, Texas, amid accusations that the building was an “epicenter” of Chinese espionage efforts.
The State Department said today that the Chinese mission was being closed “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.”
China harshly criticized the move calling it an “unprecedented escalation.”
“The U.S. should revoke its erroneous decision,” a Chinese government spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, wrote in a tweet today. “China will surely react with firm countermeasures.”
China is reportedly considering shuddering the U.S. consulate in Wuhan in retaliation. Also being considered is closing the posts in Hong Kong, Shanghai or Guangzhou as a way to hurt American businesses.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio, acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, described the Houston consulate as the “central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies & influence operations in the United States.”
The New York Times quoted the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, David Stilwell, as saying the Houston consulate was the “epicenter” of the Chinese efforts to advance its espionage advantages by sending students to U.S. universities.
“We took a practical step to prevent them from doing that,” Stilwell said.
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