Politics

US officials raid Chinese consulate in Houston believed to be spy hub

U.S. officials pried open the doors of the Chinese consulate in Houston on Friday and took over the building shortly after Chinese officials vacated the facility on orders from the Trump Administration.

Federal officials and local law enforcement surrounded the Houston facility Friday afternoon as the Chinese officials moved out of the building that the Trump Administration contends was a hub of spy activity by the Chinese Communist Party.

Forty minutes after the 4 p.m. eviction deadline passed, U.S. officials broke into a back door of the consulate and a man believed to be a State Department official led the way of the U.S. takeover, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Federal officials and a locksmith pull on a door to make entry into the vacated Consulate General of China building Friday, July 24, 2020, in Houston. On Tuesday, the U.S. ordered the Houston consulate closed within 72 hours, alleging that Chinese agents had tried to steal data from facilities in Texas, including the Texas A&M medical system and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Federal officials and a locksmith pull on a door to make entry into the vacated Consulate General of China building Friday, July 24, 2020, in Houston. On Tuesday, the U.S. ordered the Houston consulate closed within 72 hours, alleging that Chinese agents had tried to steal data from facilities in Texas, including the Texas A&M medical system and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
(Godofredo Vasquez/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Photographs show federal officials and a locksmith trying to force their way into the vacated Consulate General of China. U.S. officials had tried three other entrances but couldn’t get in. Security teams donning U.S. State Department emblems on their shirts stood guard. The Houston Chronicle reported that the local fire department entered the building, too.

Tuesday night, hours after the Trump Administration announced its directive for the Chinese to vacate, the Houston Fire Department responded to fires at the courtyard of the building — an apparent effort to destroy documents. Chinese officials refused to allow the first responders to enter to put out the fires, Fox 26 in Houston reported.

Federal officials and a locksmith work on a door to make entry into the vacated Consulate General of China building Friday, July 24, 2020, in Houston. On Tuesday, the U.S. ordered the Houston consulate closed within 72 hours, alleging that Chinese agents had tried to steal data from facilities in Texas, including the Texas A&M medical system and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Federal officials and a locksmith work on a door to make entry into the vacated Consulate General of China building Friday, July 24, 2020, in Houston. On Tuesday, the U.S. ordered the Houston consulate closed within 72 hours, alleging that Chinese agents had tried to steal data from facilities in Texas, including the Texas A&M medical system and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

CHINA THREATENS RETALIATION AFTER U.S. CLOSES CONSULATE

All morning Friday, consulate workers were spotted loading up two U-haul trucks and vehicles and tossing trash bags into a nearby Dumpster in an attempt to meet the U.S.’s 4 p.m. eviction deadline, the Chronicle reported.

Consular staff pack items into their vehicles as they vacate the Consulate General of China building Friday, July 24, 2020, in Houston. On Tuesday, the U.S. ordered the Houston consulate closed within 72 hours, alleging that Chinese agents had tried to steal data from facilities in Texas, including the Texas A&M medical system and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. (Godofredo Vasquez/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Consular staff pack items into their vehicles as they vacate the Consulate General of China building Friday, July 24, 2020, in Houston. On Tuesday, the U.S. ordered the Houston consulate closed within 72 hours, alleging that Chinese agents had tried to steal data from facilities in Texas, including the Texas A&M medical system and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. (Godofredo Vasquez/Houston Chronicle via AP)

“We can confirm that the PRC Consulate General in Houston is closed,” a State Department spokesperson told Fox News.

After the Chinese officials packed up and left, U.S. teams began to force their way in. After two hours of gaining entry, the government officials loaded into a van and drove away, leaving the Houston Police and security teams behind at the scene, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The U.S. alleged that the consulate was a nest of Chinese spies who tried to steal data from facilities in Texas, including the Texas A&M medical system and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Police officers install barricades outside the Consulate General of China Friday, July 24, 2020, in Houston. Workers at China's consulate loaded up moving trucks Friday ahead of an afternoon deadline to shut down the facility, as ordered by the Trump administration. (Godofredo Vasquez/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Police officers install barricades outside the Consulate General of China Friday, July 24, 2020, in Houston. Workers at China’s consulate loaded up moving trucks Friday ahead of an afternoon deadline to shut down the facility, as ordered by the Trump administration. (Godofredo Vasquez/Houston Chronicle via AP)

RUBIO: CHINESE CONSULATE IN HOUSTON WAS ‘MASSIVE SPY CENTER’

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week called the Houston complex “a hub of spying and IP theft.” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the consulate was a “massive spy center [and] forcing it to close is long overdue.”

China called the allegations “malicious slander” and responded by ordering the U.S. to close its consulate in the western Chinese city of Chengdu.

CHINA ORDERS US TO CLOSE CHENGDU CONSULATE IN APPARENT RETALIATION FOR HOUSTON SHUTDOWN ORDER

U.S. officials were spotted packing up and moving out of the Chengdu consulate Saturday as thousands of people gathered to watch the Americans forced to exit on Beijing’s orders.

Federal officials arrive to make entry into the vacated Consulate General of China building Friday, July 24, 2020, in Houston. On Tuesday, the U.S. ordered the Houston consulate closed within 72 hours, alleging that Chinese agents had tried to steal data from facilities in Texas, including the Texas A&M medical system and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Federal officials arrive to make entry into the vacated Consulate General of China building Friday, July 24, 2020, in Houston. On Tuesday, the U.S. ordered the Houston consulate closed within 72 hours, alleging that Chinese agents had tried to steal data from facilities in Texas, including the Texas A&M medical system and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

The South China Morning Post reported that three trucks and a bus were seen entering and leaving the U.S. compound while other workers left on foot with the arms full of boxes and files. Reuters reported the American consulate emblem was taken down and security was tight outside the facility for the moveout in the tit-for-tat consulate closures.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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