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Videos: Chinese mass burning documents at Houston consulate after US orders it closed

Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China in Houston. (Wikimedia Commons/Released)
July 22, 2020

The U.S. has ordered the China to close down its consulate in Houston, Texas on Wednesday amid growing diplomatic tensions between the two countries.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus also told CNN the U.S. directed the closure “in order to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.” Ortagus’ statement appears to reference concerns long stated by the Trump administration about the Chinese practice of intellectual property theft in the U.S.

“Purported video showing documents being burned at the Chinese consulate in Houston, US. It is believed that Chinese burnt files/documents after US asked Beijing to close this consulate,” a Twitter user posted with video of document burning efforts.

The first video appears to show consulate staff burning documents late at night or in the early morning hours. Further videos showed staff still burning documents as daylight arrived Wednesday, indicating a potentially hours long and extensive document burning effort.

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“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,” another Twitter user posted.

“Firefighters arrived at the Chinese consulate in Houston after witness reports that papers were being burned outside in open containers, according to local media reports, citing police,” Bloomberg tweeted with video of fire trucks outside the consulate. “Earlier the U.S. abruptly ordered China to close the consulate.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed the closure order in a statement to CNN Wednesday, saying they were ordered to “cease all operations and events” at the Houston consulate.

The editor in chief for the Chinese media outlet, Global Times indicated that the Chinese consulate had been given three days to close down.

“The US asked China to close Consulate General in Houston in 72 hours. This is a crazy move,” tweeted Hu Xijin of the Global Times.

Rubio also confirmed the 72 hour leave notice and warned those consulate staff who did not leave could face arrest.

“#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. Now that building must close & the spies have 72 hours to leave or face arrest,” Rubio tweeted.

The order to close the consulate comes a day after the U.S. Department of Justice charged two Chinese hackers working with the Chinese Ministry of State Security in a decade-long intellectual property theft campaign that targeted hundreds of U.S. companies and organizations.

The theft equated to “literally hundreds of millions of dollars worth of trade secrets, intellectual property, and other valuable information,” U.S. Attorney William D. Hyslop said at a Tuesday press conference.

Hyslop said some of the more recent hacking efforts included efforts between January and May of 2020 to spy on four U.S. biotech firms involved in research activities related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic including vaccine research anti-viral work, and diagnostic work.