Reality check of US unilateral demand for China to close Consulate-General in Houston
On July 21, the US made the unilateral provocation by making an outrageous demand that China close its Consulate-General in Houston. By so doing, the US has grossly violated international law, the basic norms of international relations, and relevant provisions of the China-US Consular Convention, and gravely damaged China-US relations. China has made legitimate and necessary response.
The US has been fabricating pretexts and spreading lies about its egregious decision. In a matter of just a few days, the US has churned out different versions of the story. Lies, however, will always be lies even if they are repeated a thousand times. The different versions of the story concocted by the US side have no factual base and mix black with white. In sum, the US has failed to present even one single piece of solid evidence. It is important that we list US false allegations vis-a-vis the facts. The purpose is to debunk the falsehoods and let people know the truths.
1. False: China has stolen intellectual property from the US, including the COVID-19 vaccine research achievements. Closing the Chinese Consulate-General is “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information”.
True: The US side is talking sheer nonsense. It has failed to back its allegation with even one single piece of solid evidence. The reality is, China is a big country in terms of innovation and intellectual property. It has become a main source driving intellectual property growth in the world. On COVID-19 vaccine research and development, China has been at the forefront and has no need to steal from the US .
◆ China is a big country in terms of innovation and intellectual property. It has kept strengthening the protection of scientific innovation and intellectual property rights. China is now among the world’s leading players in terms of scale and growth rate of innovation input. Its R&D expenditure had grown from RMB 300.31 billion yuan in 2006 to RMB 1.96779 trillion yuan in 2018, an average annual increase of 17% and rising from the sixth to the second in the world. China has the world’s biggest number of researchers. China’s IP offices have received the highest number of patent applications for nine years in a row. China also registered rapid increase in international patent applications and has risen to the world’s second biggest filer via WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) System. As pointed out in the WIPO annual report, China has become a main driving force for the overall growth in the global demand for intellectual property rights.
◆ China is one of the global leaders in the research and development of COVID-19 vaccines. At the moment, Chinese scientists are working on multiple vaccine projects along five technical routes. Vaccines with China’s independent intellectual property have entered clinical trials. The Beijing Institute of Biological Products under the China National Biotec Group, a subsidiary of the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), has set up the world’s largest production plant for COVID-19 vaccines. China’s National Medical Products Administration and other competent authorities are working to facilitate the deployment of vaccines. China is also working with relevant countries on vaccine research and development, production and distribution.
The US accuses China of stealing its research outcomes. Such accusations are a total disrespect to the hard work of Chinese scientists and malicious slanders against China’s COVID-19 response. They have seriously undermined international cooperation on vaccine research and disrupted the global response against the disease.
◆ The Houston Chronicle, Cable News Network (CNN), Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) all called the reason “to protect American intellectual property”, as cited by the US State Department in its order to close the Chinese Consulate-General in Houston, suspicious.
The real aim of the US decision was to deflect people’s attention from the US administration’s poor handling of COVID-19. Closing the Chinese Consulate-General prior to the election was a measure by Trump to “play tough on China”, hold up his declining approval rating, and turn China into a convenient target to vilify and shore up votes. New moves acting on the absurd logic that “China is ripping off America” pop up almost every single day in the US.
In the midst of a presidential re-election campaign and with the US economy battered by the disease, Trump is convinced that playing the “China card” gives him political advantages. The actions taken by the US side, which are largely driven by internal politics, would only make China-US relations even more strained.
2. False: China is using its talent recruitment programs to steal scientific research and intellectual property from research institutions such as the MD Anderson Cancer Center and from energy and high-tech companies in the Houston area.
True: These are trumped-up charges made by the US under the presumption of guilt against the normal scientific and people-to-people exchanges and cooperation between the two countries. China’s efforts in attracting talent from abroad are no different in essence from customary practices of other countries. These efforts are above-board and beyond reproach.
◆ The cross-border movement of talent in the era of globalization has facilitated technological and economic advances worldwide. Countries are all actively carrying out international exchanges and cooperation on talent. What China is doing in this respect is in essence not different from other countries’ practices.
◆ Closer exchanges and cooperation between China and the US on science and technology serves the interests of both sides. According to the Global AI Talent Tracker released in mid-June by MacroPolo, the in-house think tank of the Paulson Institute, 29% of top-tier AI researchers working in the US received undergraduate degrees in China. Thus, the US global lead on AI has much to do with the talent supply from China.
◆ What the US government is doing conflicts with its self-claimed ideals of openness and freedom as well as the commitments publicly made by its leaders. It runs counter to the global trend of talent exchanges worldwide, and has brought grave negative impact on the normal people-to-people exchange and personnel inter-flow between the two countries.
3.False: The Chinese Consulate-General in Houston has a history of engaging in “subversive behavior”. It is the central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies and influence operations, and the epicenter of efforts by the Chinese military to send students to the US to obtain information that could advance its warfare capabilities. It has engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations.
True: Since its opening, the Chinese Consulate-General in Houston has always observed international law and US laws, and stayed committed to promoting friendship between the two countries. There are no spying activities or influence operations as claimed by the US. By fabricating such claims, the US is simply “measuring others’ corn with its own bushel”.
◆ China always pursues the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs. Infiltration and interference is never in the genes or tradition of China’s foreign policy. Dedicated to advancing mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples, Chinese diplomatic and consular missions in the US abide by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral treaties and US laws.
◆ The Chinese Consulate-General in Houston was the first consular mission opened in the US following the establishment of China-US diplomatic ties. In the past four decades and more, it worked hard to promote friendship and cooperation between the two peoples, and enhance mutual understanding and all-round cooperation between the two countries in various sectors. While COVID-19 raged on in the southern states of the US, the Consulate-General donated masks to Houston and Harris County, actively facilitated anti-virus cooperation between China and the southern states, and assisted Shanghai, Shandong and Shenzhen of China in donating medical supplies to Houston.
◆ The composition and number of the staff at the Consulate-General in Houston was open information to the US side. It runs counter to the common sense in diplomacy to accuse the Consulate-General of being the central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies and influence operations, and the epicenter of efforts by the Chinese military to send students to the US to obtain information that could advance its warfare capabilities. Such a claim is also very preposterous.
◆ Some staff of the US Embassy and consulates-general in China have been engaged in activities incompatible with their capacities, interfering in the internal affairs and undermining the security interests of China. The US Embassy often publishes on its website articles attacking China and China’s political system. It is reported that the staff of the US Consulate-General in Hong Kong met covertly with “Hong Kong independence” elements during the turbulence surrounding the proposed legislative amendments in Hong Kong to discuss US sanctions on Hong Kong, interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs. China has lodged representations on multiple occasions.
◆ In July 2018 and January 2020, the US side opened Chinese diplomatic bags twice without permission. This was a flagrant breach of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. It also grossly violated China’s diplomatic dignity and security interests.
Hence China’s diplomatic and consular missions lodged strong representations at the first opportunity. The US side did not deny what had actually happened, but kept exonerating its wrongful behavior with technical excuses in an attempt to shirk responsibility. The US behavior and response ran counter to international law and the norms of international relations, and therefore must be condemned. In addition to opening diplomatic pouches, the US side has since 2018 forcibly unpacked the office supplies of Chinese missions on at least 13 occasions.
◆ The New York Times questions the assertion that “the Houston Consulate-General had a history of engaging in ‘subversive behavior’ and was the ‘epicenter’ of research theft in the US”, and it believes that there is no evidence to support this allegation.
◆ An editorial of Houston Chronicle reads that China is the Houston region’s second-largest trading partner and it has benefited from having the Consulate-General in the city. For more than 40 years, the Chinese Consulate-General in Houston has served as a symbolic bridge, facilitating travel, trade and cultural ties between Houston and China. For decades, China has been an important trading partner of Texas in key sectors such as energy, oil, chemicals, science and technology, which will bear the brunt of the US move. The closure will also have a direct impact on passport and visa application in the regions covered by the Consulate-General, and will put a heavy damper on the desire of Chinese citizens to study, travel and work in the US. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner was shocked by the US decision. He expressed his hope that friction between the US and China, whatever it may be, can be resolved peacefully and that at some point in time the Consulate-General will reopen.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner was shocked by the US decision. He expressed his hope that whatever the friction may be between the US and China [it] can be resolved peacefully and that at some point in time the Consulate-General will reopen.
◆ According to US Congressman Al Green, communities of Asian Americans in Houston have already been discriminated against because of President Trump’s comments against China and their work and the safety of their families are under threat. The closure of the Chinese Consulate-General in Houston will make the situation worse. He called for not treating all Asian Americans as spies and fully evaluating the potential damage these words and actions may do to the American people and thinking more for their sake.
4. False: Chinese Consul-General in Houston and two other diplomats were recently caught using false birth information at the security check of an airport in Houston to escort Chinese travelers to the gate area of a charter flight.
True: The US allegation could not be further from facts. The staff of the Chinese Consulate-General in Houston have always followed international law and American local laws when performing their duties in the US.
◆ All diplomats and consular staff must obtain identification cards from foreign affairs authorities of the host country, thus their personal information including date of birth is no secret, but open information to such authorities. This is common sense.
◆ The said Chinese consular officers used consular ID cards issued by the US State Department and entered the restricted area of the airport upon approval from the US side to take care of Chinese nationals who were taking the temporary flight back to China due to COVID-19.
5. False: There is a complete lack of reciprocity between the US and China in the treatment of diplomatic and consular staff. The US concerns over the treatment of its diplomats and consular officers in China have gone unresolved.
True: China supports and provides necessary facilitation for the performance of all lawful, normal official acts in China by foreign diplomatic and consular officers including those from the US. It is the US that has imposed unjustified restrictions on and created barriers for Chinese diplomats and consular officers in the US.
◆ The US figure far outnumbers China’s when it comes to diplomatic and consular missions and staff. China has five diplomatic and consular missions in the US, while the US has six in China. It is reported that there are more than 1,000 staff in the US Consulate-General in Hong Kong alone.
◆ China supports and provides necessary facilitation for the performance of all normal official activities in China by foreign diplomatic personnel including those from the US. A former US ambassador to China visited each of China’s provinces within his three-year term.
◆ In October 2019 and June 2020, the US made unilateral provocations by imposing restrictions on the activities of Chinese diplomats and consular officials in the US. Such restrictions are a serious violation of the relevant rules of international law and the basic norms governing international relations.
For example, all Chinese members of China’s foreign missions in the US are required to submit a written notification to the Office of Foreign Missions (OFM) of the State Department of all official engagements with any local government representatives, as well as all official visits to any educational or research institutions. Such notifications must be submitted five business days prior to the planned engagement date. All Chinese military personnel assigned to the Chinese Embassy or a consular post, as well as those temporarily visiting, are required to provide OFM notification five business days prior to any travel plan, for official or private purposes, which is in excess of a 25-mile radius of their places of work or the US ports of their entry.
In the face of the unreasonable provocations of the US, China has no choice but respond with legitimate and reciprocal countermeasures as necessary.
6. False: The US demanded the closure of the Chinese Consulate-General in Houston because China did not accord facilities for the reopening of the US Consulate-General in Wuhan and the exemption of nucleic acid testing of returning US diplomats.
True: China has never set up obstacles for the return of diplomats and consular officials of other countries, including the US. Quite the contrary, China has provided necessary facilities for them to perform duties in accordance with law.
◆ On 25 January, the US unilaterally announced the temporary closure of its Consulate-General in Wuhan and the evacuation of the personnel therefrom. China accorded facilities for the departure of the personnel, for which the US expressed appreciation at different levels. Records are available for verifying the fact.
◆ In June, some US diplomats returned to Wuhan. Since then, China has accorded facilities to the US Consulate-General to perform its functions in accordance with law.
◆ On the basis of respecting their privileges and immunities, China has applied nucleic acid testing equally to all foreign diplomats and consular officials entering China. This arrangement is also accepted by the US. The so-called issue of nucleic acid testing is simply an excuse.
7.False: The US side claims that its demand to take over the premises of the Chinese Consulate-General in Houston is consistent with relevant US laws and regulations.
True: The outrageous and unreasonable demand of the US seriously violates a number of international laws.
◆ Both the land and the premises of the Chinese Consulate-General in Houston are properties of the Chinese government.
◆ According to Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the sending State may entrust another consular post or diplomatic mission it has in the territory of the receiving State with the custody of the premises of the consular post which has been closed, together with the property contained therein and the consular archives. China is entitled to entrust its Embassy or other consulates-general in the US with the custody of the premises of its Consulate-General in Houston. The unreasonable demand of the US side to take over the premises of the Chinese Consulate-General in Houston seriously violates the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and infringed on China’s legitimate rights and interests.
◆ Both the land and premises of the Chinese Consulate-General in Houston are China’s state property. Even if relevant premises are not covered by consular privileges and immunities, the relevant property is still protected by international law.
8.False: The Chinese Consulate-General in Houston threatened dissidents and refugees with the Fox Hunt operation.
True: Chinese law-enforcement authorities engage in international law-enforcement cooperation in accordance with international law and on the basis of respecting the sovereignty and laws of other countries. The targets are fugitive suspects, not “dissidents and refugees” as claimed by the US side.
◆ Combating transnational crimes is a broad consensus of the international community. China’s judicial and law-enforcement cooperation with other countries are aimed at repatriating fugitives, and upholding the sanctity of law and social justice. China will step up its efforts in fugitive repatriation and return of the criminal proceeds, and bring the suspects to justice.
◆ By portraying fugitives as dissidents and refugees, the US side is distorting basic facts and offering itself as a safe haven for criminals. Its deep-rooted Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice have been fully exposed.
9. False: Diplomats working in Chinese Consulate-General in Houston are Chinese spies. Chinese spies are stirring up trouble all over the world.
True: Meddling in other countries’ internal affairs is never in the DNA of China’s diplomacy. Chinese diplomats, who are working vigorously to advance China’s friendly exchanges and practical cooperation with other countries, have never engaged in activities incompatible with their status.
◆ China is committed to growing its relations with other countries on the basis of such principles as mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs. Chinese diplomats have always followed the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the laws of their host countries when they promote China’s bilateral ties, and friendship and cooperation with their host countries.
◆ The US allegation that Chinese diplomats at the Consulate-General in Houston have carried out espionage in Australia and other US allies is made up out of thin air. It is like measuring others’ corn by one’s own bushel. It is common sense for diplomats to rotate among different postings. The US has the world’s largest diplomatic service. It is reported that the US Consulate-General in Hong Kong alone has more than 1,000 employees. The Five Eyes intelligence alliance headed by the US has long been engaged in large-scale, organized and indiscriminate cyber-theft,wire-tapping and surveillance against foreign governments,companies and individuals in violation of international law and the basic norms governing international relations. This is an open secret.
◆ From Wikileaks to Snowden, from the arrest of former ALSTOM executive Pierucci to the Crypto AG scandal, there are enough facts to show who is the world’s largest spy factory and troublemaker.
◆ A Foreign Policy article noted that “Houston is an odd pick to target for intelligence allegations” and that “the activities cited by the administration are vague.”
10. False: The Chinese Consulate-General in Houston openly criticized Hong Kong pro-democracy camp and supported nationalist counter protests on campus. The Consulate-General has planted informants on campus, tried to influence Chinese students through propaganda and undermined freedom of speech.
True: The “China-supported counter protests”, as claimed by the US, were spontaneous, rational patriotic actions by Chinese students in exercising their freedom of speech. It is the US who has intentionally condoned anti-China actions on campus by certain rioters seeking to destabilize Hong Kong.
◆ Certain anti-China elements seeking to destabilize Hong Kong openly made radical remarks and inflamed violence on campus in total disregard of law. The Chinese students only came together to express their outrage in what is spontaneous, rational patriotic action. In doing so, they are also exercising their freedom of speech.
◆ China firmly opposes any separatist rhetoric or action. We support Chinese students’ desire and aspiration to safeguard the unity of the country and the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, and encourage them to abide by local laws and regulations and express their patriotic sentiments rationally.
◆ The US is using the pretext of “human rights” and “democracy” to whitewash the radical, violent criminal acts by anti-China forces seeking to destabilize Hong Kong, and condone their behaviors on US campus. The US has no interest whatsoever in the safety and well-being of Hong Kong residents. It only cares about its own selfish interests and hegemony, and has been using “human rights” and “democracy” as a fig leaf to interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs.