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Sen. Rubio says China’s Houston consulate was ‘massive spy center’

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), here in a file image, served as the lead sponsor on a bill, approved unanimously, aimed at supporting protesters in Hong Kong and warning China against a violent suppression of the demonstrations. (Miami Herald/TNS)
July 23, 2020

Republican Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio voiced support for the U.S. State Department’s decision to close down the Chinese Consulate in Houston, Texas, saying the consulate did not act as a diplomatic facility but instead served as a center for a network of Chinese spies.

In an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, Rubio said the diplomatic facility acted as “central node of a massive spy operation, commercial espionage, defense espionage” and hosted “influence agents to try to influence Congress.”

“#China’s Houston consulate is a massive spy center, forcing it to close is long overdue,” Rubio tweeted Wednesday.

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“#China’s consulate in #Houston is not a diplomatic facility. It is the central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies & influence operations in the United States,” Rubio continued in another tweet. “Now that building must close & the spies have 72 hours to leave or face arrest. This needed to happen.”

 

The Chinese Consulate in Houston was given notice sometime between late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning that it had 72 hours, three days, to leave.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the U.S. made the decision “in order to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.” The closure order came hours after the U.S. Department of Justice announced charges against two Chinese state-sponsored hackers accused of taking part in a decade long hacking campaign that stole terabytes worth of data, including efforts to steal U.S. coronavirus research.

Following the closure order, videos emerged Wednesday morning of the Houston consulate employees burning documents in the courtyard of the diplomatic compound.

“Video from Consulate General of China in Houston, TX shows fire in the courtyard of the building, hours before it was shut down today. US State Dept. ordered its closure in another escalation with China,” a Twitter user posted.

Concerns about China’s diplomatic practices go beyond the Houston consulate. FBI investigators, pursuing a Chinese national who hid ties to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on her visa application, believe China’s San Francisco consulate has been harboring her.

“We made the Chinese government aware that she is a charged individual, so it unquestionable that they know the defendant is a fugitive from Justice,” a DOJ official told Axios, which first reported the diplomatic incident involving the San Francisco consulate.