July 23, 2020 / 12:58 AM / 21 days ago

China state media blasts Houston consulate shutdown as U.S. election gambit

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The move by the United States government to shut down China’s consulate in Houston is an attempt to blame Beijing for American failures ahead of presidential elections in November, Chinese state media said in editorials published on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: China’s national flag is seen waving at the China Consulate General in Houston, Texas, U.S., July 22, 2020. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

The United States said on Wednesday it had given China 72 hours to close the consulate “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.”

The decision marked a dramatic escalation of tensions between the world’s two biggest economies amid fresh accusations of Chinese espionage in the United States.

China’s embassy to the United States described the move as a “political provocation” and called on Washington to “immediately revoke” the decision. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying wrote on Twitter that China would “surely react with firm countermeasures”.

The official English-language newspaper China Daily described the move as “a new gambit in the U.S. administration’s bid to paint China as a malevolent actor on the world stage, and thus make it an outlaw to the international community.”

“The move shows that lagging behind his presidential election opponent in the polls... the US leader is going all out in his attempts to portray China as an agent of evil,” it added.

The Global Times, an English-language tabloid run by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper, also accused U.S. President Donald Trump of playing politics.

“The November presidential election is driving Washington mad,” it said.

In a statement released on Thursday morning, the Chinese embassy in Washington accused the United States of “groundless fabrications” about the actions of China’s diplomatic missions and urged it to “immediately revoke this erroneous decision”.

“It’s time to step on the brakes and return to the right direction!” the embassy posted separately on its official Twitter account.

Reporting by David Stanway. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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