Cai Wei, China’s consul general in Houston, said that China is protesting the closure order of its consulate in Texas and that his office will remain open “until further notice”, according to a news report.
“Today we are still operating normally, so we will see what will happen tomorrow,” Cai was quoted as saying by politico.com on Thursday.
Cai said Beijing has asked the US to rescind its Tuesday order to close the consulate, which China argues runs afoul of international agreements governing diplomatic relations.
“We think that the demand from the US side … is not according to the Vienna convention on consular affairs and also is not according to international practice or (diplomatic) norms, and it violates the China-US consular treaty,” Cai said in the website’s report. “We prepared for the worst scenario, but we’ve also launched a strong protest … so we urge the US to abandon and revoke that wrong decision.”
Beijing said Thursday that US allegations that China’s consulate in Houston operated outside ordinary diplomatic norms are “malicious slander”, saying Washington’s move seriously damages bilateral ties.
The US said Tuesday it had given China 72 hours to close the consulate “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information”.
Washington is “taking down the bridge of friendship between the people from both countries”, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a daily news conference.
China opened its consulate in Houston after the establishment of US-China diplomatic relations in 1979. Wang said China has been committed to promoting mutual understanding and cooperation in various fields between the two countries and has done a lot of work toward that end.
Wang said the US has twice opened Chinese diplomatic pouches — in July 2018 and January 2020. Washington has not denied that, he said, but repeatedly cited technical reasons to justify the actions and shift responsibility.
The US actions violated China’s diplomatic dignity and security and should be condemned, he said.
Wang also denied reports that the US closure of the consulate was done in retaliation for China not helping the US reopen its consulate in Wuhan. The US announced in January, at the outset of the novel coronavirus threat, the temporary closure of its Wuhan consulate and the withdrawal of its personnel.
Some US diplomats returned to the consulate to resume operations in June, and China has been providing convenience for the US consulate to perform its duties in accordance with the law.
Wang was asked about allegations that the Houston consulate engages in espionage activities, based on reports of the Chinese consul general and two other Chinese diplomats recently using fake identification to escort Chinese travelers to the gate area of a charter flight at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
He clarified that Chinese consular officials entered a restricted area of the airport with a consular certificate approved by the US State Department to take care of Chinese citizens on the flight.
Wang said that such a practice complies with relevant laws and regulations, and there are precedents.
“The US accusation against China is completely fabricated and not true,” he said.
Cai told politico.com that the consulate’s activities comply with international agreements and do not differ from the actions of other nations, including the US.
Cai dismissed local news reports that consular staff burned classified documents in the compound’s courtyard Tuesday after receiving word of the US order.
“We have never done this (espionage),” he told politico. “What we have done is very legal and follows the law and normal practice.”
Instead of espionage, Cai said the consulate has been engaged in “mask diplomacy” and has arranged for protective face masks from China to be delivered to the Houston area and as far away as Georgia.
“We didn’t make any comments on what happened here,” Cai said, referencing the coronavirus pandemic. “But we knew that some people needed assistance, and needed help, so that’s why we sent the masks.”