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US consulate in China readies for closure amid diplomatic row

25 July 2020, MVT 13:08
People carry items out of the US consulate in Chengdu, southwestern China's Sichuan province, on July 25, 2020. - Staff at the US consulate in the Chinese city of Chengdu were busy packing belongings and removing the American insignia from the building, a day after Beijing ordered its closure in a tit-for-tat diplomatic battle with Washington. (Photo by Noel Celis / AFP)
25 July 2020, MVT 13:08

Workers removed the US insignia from the consulate in the Chinese city of Chengdu on Saturday, a day after Beijing ordered its closure as relations deteriorated in a Cold War-style standoff.

The Chengdu mission was told to shut in retaliation for the forced closure of Beijing's consulate in Houston, Texas, with both sides alleging the other had endangered national security.

The deadline for the Americans to exit Chengdu remains unclear, but AFP reporters saw a worker on a small crane removed a circular US insignia from the front of the consulate, leaving just an American flag flying.

Three moving company trucks entered the US consulate building Saturday afternoon.

Cleaners were seen carting big black bags of rubbish from the consulate in the early hours of the morning. One of them had split and appeared to contain shredded paper.

At least ten bags were removed from the building.

Other staff were seen moving trolleys around inside, one carrying a large empty metal bin, while some wheeled suitcases.

Beijing says closing the Chengdu consulate was a "legitimate and necessary response to the unreasonable measures by the United States", and has alleged that staff at the diplomatic mission endangered China's security and interests.

Washington officials, meanwhile, said there had been unacceptable efforts by the Chinese consulate in Houston to steal US corporate secrets and proprietary medical and scientific research.

The last Chinese diplomats left the Houston consulate on Friday as a 72-hour deadline to close the mission passed. Officials there were seen loading large sacks of documents and other items onto trucks, and throwing some in bins.

Chengdu, China | AFP

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