Chinese authorities have assumed control over the former US consulate in Chengdu following a closure order issued last week.
“Competent authorities” entered through the consulate’s front entrance and took over the premises after US diplomats closed it at 10am on Monday, said China’s foreign ministry in a statement.
The tit-for-tat closures come amid increased tensions between the two countries on issues such as trade and technology, national security, human rights, coronavirus, and Taiwan and Hong Kong.
In a statement, the US State Department expressed disappointment at the closure, saying the consulate “has stood at the centre of our relations with the people in Western China, including Tibet, for 35 years.
“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 statement said.
The US has four other consulates in China in addition to an embassy in Beijing, whilst China maintains consulates in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York in addition to its embassy in Washington.
The Chengdu consulate attracted small crowds over the weekend, as trucks passed between checkpoints, and people took photos.
On Monday, as the US flag was lowered at the facility, Chinese police cordoned off an area around the Chengdu consulate to prevent passersby getting too close.
In a statement on Sunday, China said the US violated the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the China-US Consular Convention, with its order to shut the country’s Houston consulate.
“The Chinese side deplores and firmly opposes the US move of forcibly entering China’s Consulate General in Houston and has lodged solemn representations. China will make legitimate and necessary reactions,” the statement said.
The US alleged that Chinese hackers were operating out of the consulate in Houston, where they made attempts to steal data from facilities in Texas including the Texas A&M medical system and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
China said the allegations were “malicious slander.”