The US has ordered China to close its consulate in Houston in "one of the biggest blows to diplomatic ties between the two countries in decades," reports Bloomberg. Firefighters responded to reports of smoke at the consulate late Tuesday as footage showed officials burning documents in barrels in a courtyard. Firefighters ultimately stayed off the property and later footage showed officials putting out the fires, per KPRC, which reports the building is to be cleared out by 4pm Friday. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it had been ordered to "cease all operations and events" at the consulate, which covers eight southern states and Puerto Rico. It called it a "political provocation" and "outrageous and unjustified move" in violation of international law and "basic norms governing international relations." It also threatened "legitimate and necessary reactions," per CNN.
China said the US had been "shifting the blame to China with stigmatization and unwarranted attacks against China's social system, harassing Chinese diplomatic and consular staff in the US, intimidating and interrogating Chinese students and confiscating their personal electrical devices, even detaining them without cause." US State Department rep Morgan Ortagus responded that the closure was meant "to protect American intellectual property and Americans' private information." She cited "unfair trade practices, theft of American jobs, and other egregious behavior," adding the US "will not tolerate … violations of our sovereignty and intimidation of our people." She also cited the Vienna Convention, which states diplomats must "respect the laws and regulations" of the host nation and not interfere "in the internal affairs of that State," per CNN. (Read more China stories.)