- US officials said that the FBI has been investigating the Chinese Consulate in Houston over espionage concerns, NBC News reported.
- The US government ordered the consulate to close earlier this week and gave it until Friday to do so.
- There were reports of people burning papers not long after the order was given.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The Chinese Consulate in Houston that on Wednesday the US government ordered to close was being investigated by the FBI over allegations of spying, NBC News reported, citing multiple sources.
US officials told NBC News that the consulate has a history of being used to steal valuable medical research as well as attempts to get into the natural gas and oil industries, and said that President Donald Trump was briefed on the suspected spying soon after he took office.
Business Insider previously reported that the US government ordered the consulate to shut down; it has until 4 p.m. local time on Friday to close.
The decision prompted people to burn papers in the consulate's courtyard, according to reports. Police and firefighters who responded to the scene were not allowed on the premises.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell said the closure was "long overdue." Stilwell said the consulate had ramped up its spying and stealing of medical research, as well as visa fraud when the pandemic began.
Stilwell also told The New York Times, that the top Chinese official and two other diplomats at the consulate were alleged to have used fake IDs to escort Chinese travelers to the gate area of a charter flight at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
"It's always possible," Trump said on Wednesday when asked if other Chinese consulates would close. "You see what's going on. We thought that there was a fire in the one that we did close. I guess they were burning documents or papers."
According to The Times, China called the closure illegal and vowed to retaliate.
"On July 21, the US suddenly requested China to close the Consulate General in Houston. This was a political provocation unilaterally initiated by the US against China," a Chinese Foreign Ministry representative, Wang Wenbin, said on Wednesday.
Wenbin called it an "unprecedented escalation" in US-China relations, Business Insider reported.
While he didn't tell NBC News exactly why the consulate was ordered to close, Sen. Mark Warner, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee said the move was most likely made by the FBI.
He told NBC: "But I can tell you for the last two years I and other members of the intel committee have been holding classified briefings with business leaders and academic leaders about the concerted efforts of the Chinese communist party to steal our intellectual property, to steal it from companies, to steal it from universities, to be on better guard."
Read the full NBC News report here »
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