American diplomats will leave the American consulate in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu following Beijing’s decision to close the mission.
Within hours of a Monday morning deadline, staff could be seen carrying cardboard boxes and garbage bags.
Meanwhile, crowds of local residents have gathered outside, with many waving Chinese flags and taking selfies.
China has acted in response to the United States closes the consulate in Houston, Texas, last week.
After a 72-hour deadline for Chinese diplomats to leave the Houston mission that expired on Friday, reporters saw men who appeared to be US officials forcing a door to enter the premises.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington had decided to take action because Beijing was “stealing” intellectual property.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin responded by saying that the US move was based on “a mixture of anti-Chinese lies”.
Tensions intensified between the two nuclear powers over a number of issues:
- The administration of the President of the United States Donald Trump has repeatedly clashed with Beijing on the trade and pandemic of coronavirus
- Washington also condemned China’s imposition of a controversial new security law in Hong Kong
- Last week, a Singapore man pleaded guilty to an American court for working as a Chinese agent
- Even last week, four Chinese nations have been charged in a separate case of visa fraud in the United States for allegedly lying about serving in the Chinese army
What are the latest news from Chengdu?
Chinese state media have shown photographs of trucks leaving the American consulate and that workers have removed diplomatic signs from the building.
Dozens of Chinese policemen have been deployed outside, urging onlookers to move forward and trying to prevent any provocation.
However, the whistles were heard when a bus with tinted windows left the building on Sunday, reports the AFP news agency.
When Chinese diplomats left their mission in Houston for the last time, they were laughed at by protesters.
The Chengdu consulate – established in 1985 – represented the interests of the United States in a large area of southwestern China, including the autonomous region of Tibet, where there was long-term pressure for independence.
Most of the more than 200 employees on the diplomatic mission had been hired locally.
With its industry and growing service sector, Chengdu is viewed by the United States as an opportunity for exports of agricultural products, cars and machinery.
After the mission closes, the United States will have four consulates in mainland China and an embassy in the capital Beijing. It also has a consulate in Hong Kong, a former British colony.
China lost its mission to Houston last week, but still has four other consulates in the United States and an embassy in the capital Washington DC.
Why is there tension between China and the United States?
There are a number of things at stake. U.S. officials blamed China for the global spread of Covid-19. More specifically, President Trump claimed, without evidence, that the virus originated from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan.
And, in unsubstantiated observations, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in March that the U.S. military could have brought the virus to Wuhan.
The U.S. and China have also been stuck in a tariff war since 2018.
Trump has long accused China of unfair trading practices and intellectual property theft, but there is a feeling in Beijing that the United States is trying to curb its rise as a global economic power.
The United States has also imposed sanctions on Chinese politicians who he says are responsible for human rights violations against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. China is accused of mass detentions, religious persecutions and forced sterilization of Uyghurs and others.
Beijing denies the accusations and accused the United States of “serious interference” in its internal affairs.
What about Hong Kong?
The Chinese imposition of a radical security law is also a source of tension with the United States and the United Kingdom, which ruled the territory until 1997.
In response, the United States revoked Hong Kong’s special trade status last week, which allowed him to avoid tariffs imposed on Chinese goods by the United States.
The United States and the United Kingdom see security law as a threat to the freedoms that Hong Kong has enjoyed under a 1984 agreement between China and the United Kingdom – before sovereignty returned to Beijing.
The United Kingdom has angered China by shaping a road for British citizenship for nearly three million Hong Kong residents.
China responded by threatening to stop recognizing a British passport type – BNO – held by many of those living in Hong Kong.