China accuses US of improperly entering Houston consulate

Chinese police officers form up in front of the United States Consulate in Chengdu in southwestern China’s Sichuan province Saturday, July 25, 2020. China ordered the United States on Friday to close its consulate in the western city of Chengdu, ratcheting up a diplomatic conflict at a time when relations have sunk to their lowest level in decades. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

BEIJING (AP) — China’s foreign ministry complained Saturday that American law enforcement officials improperly entered its consulate in Houston, which was ordered to close in an escalating diplomatic feud.

The ministry gave no details, but U.S. federal agents checked the consulate’s doors and a locksmith was seen working on a lock Friday after Chinese diplomats left ahead of a 4 p.m. deadline to close.

U.S.-Chinese relations have plunged to their lowest level in decades amid conflicts over trade, technology, Hong Kong, spying accusations and complaints of abuses against Chinese Muslims.

The Trump administration ordered the Houston consulate closed this week, saying Chinese agents tried to steal medical and other research in Texas. Beijing responded by ordering Washington to close its consulate in the southwest Chinese city of Chengdu.

“As for the U.S. side’s forcible entry into the premises of the Chinese Consulate General in Houston, China expresses strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition,” said a foreign ministry statement. “China will make a proper and necessary response to this.”

The statement said that the Houston consulate was Chinese property, and that under diplomatic treaties American officials had no right to enter.

In Chengdu, spectators snapped photos outside the U.S. Consulate on Saturday as police in T-shirts and surgical masks stood on the sidewalk and the closed-off street in front of the walled compound.

A bus drove into the compound, but spectators saw few other signs of action.

On Friday, a man was detained by police after he set off firecrackers outside the consulate at about 7 p.m., Chengdu police said on their social media account. It said the man was given a warning.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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