Workers at the Chinese consulate in Houston were seen burning files after the State Department ordered it to close, CNN reports.
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the government directed the consulate to shut down in “order to protect American intellectual property and Americans' private information.”
The department did not provide any additional information.
A department spokesperson said in a separate statement that China "has engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations" and that those "activities have increased markedly in scale and scope over the past few years."
"The United States will not tolerate the PRC's (People Republic of China) 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 Trump insists on fairness and reciprocity in US-China relations,” Ortagus said.
Workers burn files:
The Houston Fire Department responded to reports of smoke coming from the Chinese consulate early Wednesday morning.
Local media showed videos of workers burning files on the roof.
China calls it “unprecedented escalation”:
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the order was a "political provocation unilaterally launched by the US side, which seriously violates international law, basic norms governing international relations and the bilateral consular agreement between China and the US."
The statement added that the US has been "shifting the blame to China with stigmatization and unwarranted attacks against China's social system, harassing Chinese diplomatic and consular staff in the US, intimidating and interrogating Chinese students and confiscating their personal electrical devices, even detaining them without cause."