United States envoys and staff evacuated the Chengdu consulate in China’s Sichuan province at 10 a.m. Monday morning as onlookers celebrated and local officials confiscated the facility. According to a state department spokesperson, the move followed China’s “withdrawal of consent for operation” on July 24. U.S. diplomatic staff will leave China no later than August 27.
“We are disappointed by the Chinese Communist Party's decision and will strive to continue our outreach to the people in this important region through our other posts in China,” the spokesperson said.
The U.S. insignia was removed from the building on Saturday, CNN reports, while crowds intensified through the weekend. A reporter for The Guardian witnessed locals booing as a tinted bus exited the premises on Sunday.
A video by state-run broadcaster CCTV depicts the U.S. flag being taken down at 6:18 a.m.
The U.S. #Consulate General in Chengdu pulled down the U.S. national flag at around 06:18 on Monday just before the deadline of evacuation.— CCTV+ (@CCTV_Plus) July 27, 2020
CCTV+ to provide videohttps://t.co/wS4Jgo78np pic.twitter.com/F8Ahu1Zrig
Demonstrators waving Chinese flags, setting off fireworks and chanting their support for China encompassed the building until local police constructed an aluminum blockade around the property to monitor traffic in and out.
Authorities claimed that some personnel at the Chengdu consulate were "conducting activities not in line with their identities."
According to PRC Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, “relevant Chinese authorities” passed through the front entrance of the consulate and seized the premises.
The Chinese government had specified 72 hours for the U.S. to suspend its presence in Chengdu, the same amount of time the U.S. had given China regarding its Houston consulate.
China maintains the closure is a “legitimate and necessary response” to the U.S. State Department’s “unjustified” decision to terminate China’s presence in Houston, TX.
Wenbin said the U.S. forcibly entered the Houston facility, violating international law: “The current situation in China-US relations is not what China desires to see, and the US is responsible for all this. We once again urge the US to immediately retract its wrong decision and create necessary conditions for bringing the bilateral relationship back on track."
In response to reporters’ queries on the legitimacy of China’s reciprocal action according to international law, Wenbin claimed that China is justified on the grounds of the U.S.’ original provocation.
“China definitely has the right to retaliate in equal measure to defend its legitimate rights and interests," he said.
The Chengdu consulate’s purview extends to the disputed Tibet Autonomous Region, where Beijing is suspected of egregious human rights abuses.
China evidently perceives the loss of the consulate as a defeat for America, even though the U.S. made the first move. The Global Times, a Chinese newspaper sympathetic to the CCP, blamed the U.S. for the two nations’ deteriorating diplomatic relationship.
“Right now, it is no longer a matter of whether China-U.S. ties are in freefall, but whether the line of defense on world peace is being broken through by Washington,” the Global Times said.
State news agency Xinhua accused the U.S. of "oppression of Chinese enterprises under the abused concept of national security, as well as wanton interrogation, harassment and even detention of Chinese overseas students."