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China accuses US of 'malicious slander' in order to close Houston consulate

China accuses US of 'malicious slander' in order to close Houston consulate
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China on Thursday accused the U.S. of ‘malicious slander’ in its ordering of the Chinese consulate in Houston to close as tensions ramp up between Washington and Beijing.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the closure “violates international law and basic norms governing international relations,” and “seriously undermines China-U.S. relations.”

“This is breaking down the bridge of friendship between the Chinese and American people,” Wang told reporters at a daily briefing, according to The Associated Press.

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The remarks come a day after the State Department ordered the closure, citing the need to protect American intellectual property.

"We have directed the closure of PRC Consulate General Houston, in order to protect American intellectual property and American’s private information," State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement, using shorthand for China's official name, the People's Republic of China. 

"The United States will not tolerate the PRC’s violations of our sovereignty and intimidation of our people, just as we have not tolerated the PRC’s unfair trade practices, theft of American jobs, and other egregious behavior. President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Albany Times Union editorial board calls for Cuomo's resignation Advocates warn restrictive voting bills could end Georgia's record turnout MORE insists on fairness and reciprocity in U.S.-China relations." 

Ortagus did not clarify any possibly violations but cited the Vienna Convention’s requirements for diplomats to “respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State” and “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State.” Wang said any suggestion that diplomats had violated any laws or treaty was false.

“This is completely malicious slander,” Wang said on Thursday.

Beijing on Wednesday threatened to respond to the closure, which it called an “unprecedented escalation.”

“The U.S. has far more diplomatic missions and staff working in China. So if the U.S. is bent on going down this wrong path, we will resolutely respond,” Wang said. 

The back-and-forth comes amid a souring in relations between Washington and Beijing, with President Trump blaming China for failing to contain the initial coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan and criticizing it over trade and a security crackdown in Hong Kong.