Curious onlookers flock to closed US consulate in China

CHENGDU: Taking selfies and waving Chinese flags curious locals flocked to the US consulate in Chengdu on Sunday as officials prepared to remove its official plaque just days after Washington and Beijing ordered each other to close one of their diplomatic missions.

Tensions between the two countries over trade and the coronavirus rose another notch on Tuesday when the US ordered China’s consulate in Texas closed, saying it was a hub of espionage and intellectual property theft.

On Sunday a constant stream of onlookers in the city of 16.5 million people flowed past the consulate, many taking photos.

Large numbers of police kept them from getting too close and put a quick stop to any provocative gestures or obvious signs of joy as the Americans left.

One passerby launched into a nationalist chant and was quickly silenced, according to a video posted on social media.

Journalists saw security confiscate a banner. The measures however didn’t stop a local draping a huge Chinese flag from his balcony and shouting “China” into the street.

Boos also went up when a bus with tinted windows left the building on Sunday.

An attempt to pry the main plaque from the wall of the shuttered consulate with a crowbar, hammer and chisel failed.

Beijing hadn’t given a date for the consulate’s closure, but on Saturday most of the insignia were stripped from the building.

The US has an embassy in Beijing as well as five consulates in mainland China — including the one in Chengdu — plus one in Hong Kong.

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