【Exclusive】 Behind the Fire at China’s Consulate in Houston

Author/Editor: Redacted to protect source identity

Fire broke out in the Consulate on Tuesday night. An insider stepped forward to give first hand knowledge behind the eviction.

0930 PM(EST), July 21

On Tuesday night, Twitter users first sighted smoke from the Chinese Consulate in Houston. The consulate staff denied access to local first responders.

Houston police officers informed Fox 26 that the consulate had been purging documents as they would be evicted this Friday at 4:00 pm.

(The video above showed documents being tossed into the burn pits. Souce: Twitter)

0300 AM(EST), July 22

The chief editor for the Global Times, Hu Xijin, first broke the silence about it through a post on Weibo. Hu stated: “according to the latest update, the U.S. government demanded the closure of the Chinese Consulate in Houston within 72 hours” (Hu).

0400 AM(EST), July 22

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the rumor at its regular press conference. The U.S. had demanded the closure of China’s Consulate in Houston. The spokesperson responded: “The U.S. government alleged non-reciprocal Sino-U.S. relationship as an excuse. Its action was absurd. The U.S. far exceeded China on the number of diplomats and establishments. We urged an immediate revocation of its false decision. Otherwise, the U.S. would face repercussions from China” (Liu). 

图片 2

Speculations

U.S. officials have not responded to inquiries about this matter. Speculations amassed in cyberspace. 

On June 11, the U.S. State Department warned about the risk of imminent arbitrary detention of visiting U.S. citizens. They would not have access to U.S. consular services or legal representation. Prolonged interrogations and extended detentions were possible under the need for “national security.” It was the first announcement of its kind since 1970.

Meanwhile, the United States Department of Justice charged two state-sponsored Chinese hackers. They engaged in global computer intrusion campaigns. 

These campaigns targeted intellectual property and confidential business information, including COVID-19 research. Many suspected connected this to the eviction (Two Chinese Hackers…COVID-19 Research). 

Several media alleged the eviction was a retaliation. According to Reuters, 1,300 U.S. diplomats and their family members failed to gain access to China. Beijing and Washington reached an impasse on their admission process. Beijing insisted on mandatory COVID-19 tests, which would gather their DNA samples. However, more than 100 U.S. diplomats and their family members had flown to China by July 15 despite the speculations (Humeyra).

(Russian consulate in San Francisco was foreclosed on August 31, 2017. It was a punishment against Russia for imposed reduction of American diplomats in Russia. Russians initiated extensive document purging. Source: the NY Times)

Exclusive

On July 22, the author established contact with a confidential source inside the consulate in the early morning hours. Most staff had not slept since July 21. They were summoned to the office under short notice. 

Senior CCP deputies locked themselves behind closed doors for hours. They held an emergency meeting (possibly with Beijing). The files purged were mostly confidential. It included visa applications, personnel records, and staff journals. Specialized teams would escort the sensitive and classified information to undisclosed consulates sites.

(Japanese Imperial Embassy in D.C. burned documents on the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Souce: Bettmann Archive)

Rumors have been circulating among junior diplomats. Some have reaffirmed speculations like those mentioned above. Yet, none of them were confirmed by their chief. The staff expected invasive intelligence debriefs and extensive political reviews upon their returns. Young officers were putting their family connections to the test. It compounded their stress levels.

Their off-record investments and equities in the U.S. pose another imminent challenge. A reliable way to liquidate their financial interests remained unclear. They struggled to maintain trust with the proxy holders of their assets. Further, no one had access to their passports, either personal or diplomatic. The source stated that many still hoped for concessions between the two countries

The source was not able to comment on the deployment of their clandestine section further. All communication and activities were suspended until future notice. The source believed the embassy in D.C. would coordinate the consolidation effort

Disclaimer:  while the author endeavors to reveal the truth and keep the information accurate, we make no warranties of any kind, express or implied about the completeness, accuracy, and reliability with respect to the website, the cited information in the articles, or the related graphics.  All views expressed in the “Opinion” section belong to the author and do not represent any organization, committee or other individuals.  

Reference

Liu, Yang. 美方要求中方关闭驻休斯敦总领馆 外交部:强烈谴责,中方必将作出正当必要反应, 22 July 2020, www.xinhuanet.com/world/2020-07/22/c_1126271374.htm.

(Xinhua is an news outlet which received direct leadership from the CCP)

Hu, Xijin. “Weibo Post.” Sina China, 22 July 2020, weibo.com/huxijin?is_all=1.

(CCP controlled companies own significant financial interest in Sina. The site was under      active surveillance.)

Humeyra Pamuk, “Exclusive: U.S. delays American diplomats’ return to China amid concerns over coronavirus testing, quarantine”, Reuters, 1 July, 2020,   https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-diplomats-excl/exclusive-u-s-delays-american-diplomats-return-to-china-amid-concerns-over-coronavirus-testing-quarantine-idUSKBN2426K7 

Humeyra Pamuk, “Second group of U.S. diplomats fly back to China amid frayed ties”, Reuters, 15 July, 2020, https://ru.reuters.com/article/idUSL5N2EM6MO

Two Chinese Hackers Working with the Ministry of State Security Charged with Global Computer Intrusion Campaign Targeting Intellectual Property and Confidential Business Information, Including COVID-19 Research.” The United States Department of Justice, 22 July 2020, www.justice.gov/opa/pr/two-chinese-hackers-working-ministry-state-security-charged-global-computer-intrusion.

Wallace, Randy. “Fire at Chinese Consulate in Houston Due to Classified Documents Being Burned Ahead of Eviction.” FOX 26 Houston, FOX 26 Houston, 22 July 2020, www.fox26houston.com/news/fire-at-chinese-consulate-in-houston-due-to-classified-documents-being-burned-ahead-of-eviction.

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[…] the State Department ordered a forced eviction on Chinese Consulate in Houston (Read more on the expulsion from an insider). Furthermore, North Texas University expelled 15 scholars backed by the Communist Government. […]

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