US Consulate in Chengdu officially closes amid escalating tensions with China

US Consulate in Chengdu officially closes amid escalating tensions with China
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The U.S. Consulate in Chengdu officially shut down on Monday and was seized by Chinese authorities amid heightening tensions between the Trump administration and the government in Beijing.

Chinese state media shared a video on social media of officials lowering the American flag outside the building. The steps came just a week after the U.S. ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, prompting outrage from Beijing and a vow for retaliatory measures. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet MORE last week ordered the Chinese Consulate in Houston to be closed after claiming that it had been involved in attempts to steal intellectual property. Chinese officials called the move an “unprecedented escalation” and on Friday ordered the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu to cease its operations. 

"The measure taken by China is a legitimate and necessary response to the unjustified act by the US," China's foreign ministry said in a statement. "It conforms with international law, the basic norms of international relations, and customary diplomatic practices."

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The agency said Monday that the Chengdu consulate closed at 10 a.m. local time and that "relevant Chinese authorities then entered from the main entrance and took over," according to CNN. The U.S. insignia on the building was reportedly taken down on Saturday.

A State Department spokesperson told The Hill that the consulate suspended its operations Monday morning in response to the Chinese government's withdrawal of consent for operation.

"The consulate has stood at the center of our relations with the people in Western China, including Tibet, for 35 years," the spokesperson said. "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."

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The U.S. Mission in China confirmed the closure in a tweet accompanied with a video of the consulate's history, including images from when then-Vice President George H.W. Bush appeared for its opening in 1985. It is unclear how many employees were working at the facility at the time of its shuttering. 

"Today, we bid farewell to the US Consulate General in Chengdu. We will miss you forever," the mission's official post said.
  
Tensions have mounted between the U.S. and China throughout Trump's time in the White House. The State Department said its decision to order the closure of a Chinese Consulate in America stemmed from a need to "protect American intellectual property and American’s private information."
 
The move followed the Commerce Department's decision to sanction 11 Chinese companies over concerns that they were associated with the oppression of Uighur minorities in the northwestern Xinjiang province. 
 
--Updated at 7:56 a.m.