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China hits back at US, calls claim of consulate spying ‘slanderous’

China's Foreign Ministry on Thursday said the order from Washington to shutter its consulate in Houston, Texas would do "serious damage" to US-China relations and dismissed Washington's allegation of economic espionage as "slanderous."

Beijing, 23 July 2020 (dpa/MIA) – China’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday said the order from Washington to shutter its consulate in Houston, Texas would do “serious damage” to US-China relations and dismissed Washington’s allegation of economic espionage as “slanderous.”

“The US request that China close the Consulate General in Houston is a serious violation of international law and basic principles of international relations,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin. “This is dismantling the bridge of friendship between the Chinese and American people.”

Wang also denied accusations from the US State Department that the consulate had been used to commit “subversive” acts including economic espionage. He called the accusations “slanderous.”

Wang further dismissed claims that Houston consular stuff had used false identities when accompanying Chinese passengers to the boarding gate of a chartered flight.

Wang said Houston was the consulate had been “committed to promoting friendship and cooperation” for more than 40 years as the first consulate to be established in the US following the normalisation of US-China relations.

Beijing on Wednesday warned of retaliation if the Trump administration did not reconsider its order to have Chinese diplomats clear out by Friday.

The US order followed a decision by the Department of Justice to charge China with supporting two hackers who targeted high tech companies around the world for years and were alleged to have been developing plans to attack firms working on a Covid-19 vaccine.

Separately, Wang also criticised the US for a second diplomatic row over the identity of Chinese researcher Song Chen, an alleged member of the People’s Liberation Army currently sheltering in China’s San Francisco Consulate.

US federal prosecutors allege that when Song entered the US in November 2018 to conduct research at Stanford University, she failed to disclose her ties to the PLA as a military scientist in her visa application, according to court filings from earlier this week.

Song has been charged with visa fraud and is also accused of lying to the FBI.

Wang told reporters on Thursday that the Chen was the victim of a US witch-hunt against Chinese academics in the US.

“For a period of time, the US has been carrying ideological prejudice, constantly monitoring, harassing, and even arbitrarily detaining Chinese students and scholars in the US, and accusing Chinese scholars of presumption of guilt,” he said, asking the US to stop harassing Chinese students and researchers.

US President Donald Trump is also reportedly pondering whether to ban members of China’s Communist Party, including scholars and students, from entering the US.

Membership of the party is often a prerequisite in China for career advancement or to be eligible for other opportunities. State news outlet China Daily reported in 2019 that China had more than 90 million party members.

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