During his coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday, July 22, President Donald Trump was asked if he was looking into closing any additional Chinese consulates or embassies in the United States. This was following news that a Chinese consulate in Houston is being closed as of Friday. A fire was seen in the consulate’s courtyard on Tuesday night after the eviction notice was issued.
Trump Said It Was Possible He Might Close More Consulates or Embassies
When asked about the fire at the China Consulate and whether Trump would be closing any more embassies, he said it was possible.
“As far as closing additional embassies, it’s always possible,” Trump said. “You see what’s going on. We thought there was a fire in the one that we did close and everybody said, ‘There’s a fire, there’s a fire.’ And I guess they were burning documents or burning papers and I wonder what that’s all about.”
You can see his response right around 20:00 in the video below.
A fire was reported on the evening of Tuesday, July 21 at the Consulate General of China in Houston. 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.
Local police 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.
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.
Vincent Lee, Reuters China Breaking News Editor, tweeted that the China Foreign Ministry said it was informed abruptly and that China condemned the move.
Reuters: CHINA FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS U.S. SIDE ON JULY 21 ABRUPTLY INFORMED CHINA TO CLOSE ITS CONSULATE IN HOUSTON, CHINA STRONGLY CONDEMNS THIS OUTRAGEOUS MOVE
(I'm just here for this one)
— Vincent Lee (휴가중 休假中) (@Rover829) July 22, 2020
You can see a video of the fire in a tweet below.
.@HoustonFire and @houstonpolice are responding to reports of documents being burned at the Consulate General of China on 3417 Montrose Boulevard. Here's what the scene looks like there right now. pic.twitter.com/grUHhqmUz4
— KPRC2Tulsi (@KPRC2Tulsi) July 22, 2020
Another video, shared by someone who lives near the consulate, is below.
Just before the press briefing, ABC 13 shared a video of a UHaul being packed up as staff prepared to move out of the consulate.
#BREAKING – The @uhaul is here at the Chinese Consulate in Houston, Texas. Staff is packing up after the Trump administration’s decision to close the communist government’s consulate -> https://t.co/9oL4Do7BP2. LIVE reports this afternoon on #abc13. #hounews @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/Yh4XKpx6zB
— Steve Campion (@SteveABC13) July 22, 2020
The consulate was ordered to cease all operations. 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 reported 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.
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