Amidst a cloud of onlookers who have come from all over China to watch it as if it were a party, the United States consulate in Chengdu, in the southwest of the country, was closed on Monday. Aggravating the “New Cold War” between the two superpowers, which has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, this closure is the response to last week’s closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, accused of espionage by US authorities.
At around half past six in the morning, the U.S. consulate has lowered its flag from the stars and stripes for the last time, according to Chinese state television CCTV. Over the weekend, its diplomats have evicted it and removal trucks have taken away its belongings and documents. What has not been seen this time, as it was when the White House ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, is its employees burning sensitive documents, an image that casts suspicion on the activities of the authoritarian regime in Beijing.
After the closure, set for 10 a.m. the authorities have “taken possession” of the building, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry in a one-phrase statement. Operational since 1985, the Chengdu consulate covered the agricultural and tourist provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou, the industrial megalopolis of Chongqing, where the Ford brand has a car factory with state partner Changan, and Tibet, which is banned for diplomats and journalists. In 2012, its facilities were used as a refuge by policeman Wang Lijun after he fled Chongqing and triggered a corruption scandal that led to the fall of one of the regime’s most prominent figures, Bo Xilai. Some 200 employees, including 150 local staff, worked at the consulate.