A fire was reported on the evening of Tuesday, July 21 at the Consulate General of China in Houston. Houston Police told Fox 26 that the fire was caused by people at the consulate burning classified documents before an eviction that’s happening on Friday.
Police Told Local News the Consulate Was Being Evicted & to Ask Trump or the State Department Why
The fire was first reported around 8 p.m. Tuesday night at the Consulate General of China in Houston, Texas, Click2Houston reported. Police said they received reports that documents were being burned, but at first it wasn’t clear why. Local police later told Fox 26 that classified documents were being burned because the consulate was going to be evicted from the building. Police told Fox 26 to ask President Donald Trump or the U.S. State Department why the consulate was being evicted.
Fire and police were denied entry.
Click2Houston confirmed the report, noting that a Houston police source said the consulate and a compound on Almeda Road where some employees live were both being evicted.
It’s wasn’t clear at first why the consulate was being evicted, but they had to be out by Friday at 4 p.m., the New York Post reported.
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Chinese and English editions of the Global Times, tweeted that the U.S. asked China to close the Consulate General in Houston within 72 hours.
Vincent Lee, Reuters China Breaking News Editor, tweeted that the China Foreign Ministry said it was informed abruptly and that China condemned the move.
A China foreign ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, told Reuters that the consulate had been operating normally on Tuesday night.
The fire was reported at 3417 Montrose Boulevard. A Houston Fire Department dispatcher told the Houston Chronicle that they responded to a “trash fire” in that region.
This is the address for the China Consulate General, according to the Consulate General’s homepage.
The video above shows the scene, where you can see smoke in the area. Another video below shows what appears to be multiple fires in the courtyard area.
Next is another view of the video showing the fires burning at the Consulate. The video was taken by a person who lives near the consulate.
Sam Pena, Houston Fire Department Chief, told ABC 13: “It appears to be open burning in a container within the courtyard of the Chinese consulate facility. It does not appear to be an unconfined fire but we have not been allowed access. We are standing by and monitoring.”
During a press briefing on Wednesday, Trump said it was “always possible” that he might close more Chinese consulates or embassies. You can see his response to the question at around 20:00 in the video below.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told CNN that the consulate was told to close in order to protect Americans’ private information and intellectual property. More details about the closure were not shared, although media in China said they were given about 72 hours’ notice.
Another spokesperson told CNN in a statement that China had “engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations” and those activities had recently increased over the last few years. CNN noted that the order came the day after U.S. prosecutors charged two Chinese hackers with a “global computer intrusion” campaign that was focused on vaccine research.
In September 2017, a Russian Consulate in San Francisco Burned ‘Unidentified Objects’ After It Was Ordered to Close
This isn’t the first time a fire has been reported at the China Consulate in Houston. In August 2017, the Consulate General reported that an accidental fire started at the Chinese Consulate General in Houston, requiring the Emergency Response Mechanism in coordination with the Houston Fire Department. The Consulate General reported that no one was hurt and there was no serious property damage. It said the fire was accidental.
That appeared to be a different situation from the fire today. In 2017, the Consulate General wrote about the fire: “The Consulate would like to thank the Fire Department of Houston, as well as the Houston Office of the Diplomatic Security Bureau of U.S. State Department for their quick and professional service. We also want to thank friends from all walks of life in Houston and beyond for their attention and care.”
Back in September 2017, smoke was seen from a chimney at a Russian consulate in San Francisco after Trump ordered the consulate to close, Newsweek reported. The San Francisco police department was turned away by people at the consulate. “Unidentified objects” were reportedly burned in a fireplace at the consulate. Then-press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump personally made the decision to close the Russian consulate.
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