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Reality check of U.S. unilateral demand for China to close Houston Consulate General
  ·  2020-08-03  ·   Source: NO.32 AUGUST 6, 2020
A man rests at the Times Square in New York City on July 23 (XINHUA)

On July 21, the U.S. made a unilateral provocation by making the outrageous demand that China close its consulate general in Houston. By doing so, the U.S. has grossly violated international law, the basic norms of international relations, and relevant provisions of the China-U.S. Consular Convention, and gravely damaged China-U.S. relations. China has made a legitimate and necessary response.

The U.S. has been making pretexts and spreading lies about its decision. In a matter of just a few days, it 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 concocted by the U.S. have no factual base. It has failed to present even one single piece of solid evidence. It is important that we check U.S. false allegations vis-à-vis the facts. The purpose is to debunk the falsehoods and let people know the truth.

1. False: China has stolen intellectual property (IP) from the U.S., including novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine research achievements. Closing the Chinese consulate general is "to protect American IP and Americans' private information."

Fact: The U.S. has failed to back its allegation with any solid evidence. The reality is that China is a big country in terms of innovation and IP. It has become a main source driving IP growth in the world. On COVID-19 vaccine research and development (R&D), China has been at the forefront and has no need to steal from the U.S.

China is a big country in terms of innovation and IP. It has kept strengthening the protection of scientific innovation and IP rights (IPRs). China is now among the world's leading players in terms of the scale and growth rate of innovation input. Its R&D expenditure grew from 300.31 billion yuan ($37.68 billion) in 2006 to 1.96779 trillion yuan ($281 billion) in 2018, an average annual increase of 17 percent and rising from sixth to second in the world. China has the world's biggest number of researchers. Its IP offices have received the highest number of patent applications for nine years in a row.

It also registered rapid increase in international patent applications and has risen to the world's second biggest filer via the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)'s Patent Cooperation Treaty 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 IPRs.

China is one of the global leaders in the R&D of COVID-19 vaccines. Chinese scientists are working on multiple vaccine projects along five technical routes. Vaccines with China's independent IP have entered clinical trial. The Beijing Institute of Biological Products under the China National Biotec Group, a subsidiary of the China National Pharmaceutical Group, 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 other countries on vaccine R&D, production and distribution.

The U.S. 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, CNN, CBS, and BBC all called the reason "to protect American IP," as cited by the U.S. State Department in its order to close the Chinese Consulate General in Houston, suspicious.

The real aim of the U.S. decision was to deflect people's attention from the U.S. administration's poor handling of COVID-19. Closing the Chinese consulate general prior to the election was a measure by U.S. President Donald Trump to get 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 U.S.

In the midst of a presidential reelection campaign and with the U.S. economy battered by the disease, Trump is convinced that playing the "China card" gives him political advantages. The actions taken by the U.S., which are largely driven by internal politics, would only make China-U.S. relations even more strained.

2. False: China is using its talent recruitment programs to steal scientific research and IP from research institutions such as the MD Anderson Cancer Center and from energy and hi-tech companies in the Houston area.

Fact: These are trumped-up charges made by the U.S. under the presumption of guilt against the normal scientific and people-to-people exchanges and cooperation between the two countries. China's efforts to attract talent from abroad are no different in essence from the practices of other countries. These efforts are above-board and beyond reproach.

The cross-border movement of talents in the era of globalization has facilitated technological and economic advances worldwide. All countries are actively carrying out international exchanges and cooperation on talents. What China is doing in this respect is not different from other countries' practices.

Closer exchanges and cooperation between China and the U.S. on science and technology serve the interests of both sides. According to the Global AI Talent Tracker released in mid-June by MacroPolo, the in-house think tank of Paulson Institute, 29 percent of top-tier AI researchers working in the U.S. received undergraduate degrees in China. Thus, the U.S. global lead on AI has much to do with the talent supply from China.

What the U.S. 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 a grave negative impact on the people-to-people exchanges 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 of China (CPC)'s vast network of spies and influence operations, and the epicenter of efforts by the Chinese military to send students to the U.S. to obtain information that could advance its warfare capabilities. It has engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations.

Fact: Since its opening, the Chinese Consulate General in Houston has always observed international law and U.S. laws, and stayed committed to promoting friendship between the two countries. There are no spying activities or influence operations as claimed by the U.S. By fabricating such claims, the U.S. 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 are alien to China's foreign policy. Dedicated to advancing mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples, Chinese diplomatic and consular missions in the U.S. abide by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral treaties and U.S. laws.

The Chinese Consulate General in Houston was the first consular mission opened in the U.S. following the establishment of China-U.S. diplomatic ties. In the past four decades and more, it worked hard to promote friendship and cooperation and enhance mutual understanding and all-round cooperation in various sectors. When COVID-19 raged on in the southern states of the U.S., the consulate general donated masks to Houston and Harris County, facilitated anti-virus cooperation between China and the states, and assisted donation of medical supplies to Houston from China.

The composition and number of staff at the Chinese Consulate General in Houston are open information to the U.S. It runs counter to common sense to accuse the consulate general of being the central node of the CPC's vast network of spies and influence operations, and the epicenter of efforts by the Chinese military to send students to the U.S. to obtain information that could advance its warfare capabilities. Such a claim is also very preposterous.

Some staff of the U.S. 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 U.S. Embassy often publishes on its website articles attacking China and its political system. It is reported that the staff of the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong met covertly with "Hong Kong independence" supporters during the turbulence surrounding proposed legislative amendments in Hong Kong to discuss U.S. sanctions on Hong Kong, interfering in Hong Kong's affairs. China has lodged representations on multiple occasions.

In July 2018 and January 2020, the U.S. 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.

China's diplomatic and consular missions lodged strong representations. The U.S. did not deny it, but kept exonerating its wrong behavior with technical excuses in an attempt to shirk responsibility. The U.S. behavior and response ran counter to international law and the norms of international relations, and should be condemned. In addition to opening diplomatic pouches, the U.S. 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 U.S." It says there is no evidence to support this allegation.

An editorial in The Houston Chronicle says that China is the Houston region's second largest trading partner and Houston has benefited from having the consulate general in the city. For more than 40 years, the consulate general 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 U.S. move. The closure will also have a direct impact on passport and visa applications in the regions covered by the consulate general, and will put a damper on the desire of Chinese citizens to study, travel and work in the U.S.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner was shocked by the U.S. decision. He expressed his hope that the friction between the U.S. and China can be resolved peacefully and that at some point in time the consulate general will reopen.

According to U.S. Congressman Al Green, Asian-American communities 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 will make the situation worse. Green called for not treating all Asian Americans as spies and evaluating the potential damage these words and actions may do to the American people.

4. False: The Chinese consul general in Houston and two other diplomats were recently caught giving false birth information at an airport security check in Houston to escort Chinese travelers to the gate of a charter flight.

Fact: The U.S. 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 U.S.

All diplomats and consular staff must obtain identification (ID) cards from the foreign affairs authorities of the host country, thus their personal information including date of birth is no secret. This is common sense.

The Chinese consular officers used consular IDs issued by the U.S. State Department and entered the restricted area of the airport upon approval from the U.S. to look after 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 U.S. and China in the treatment of diplomatic and consular staff. U.S. concerns over the treatment of its diplomats and consular officers in China have gone unresolved.

Fact: 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 U.S. It is the U.S. that has imposed unjustified restrictions on and created barriers for Chinese diplomats and consular officers in the U.S.

The U.S. outnumbers China when it comes to diplomatic and consular missions and staff. China has five diplomatic and consular missions in the U.S., while the U.S. has six in China. It is reported that there are more than 1,000 staff in the U.S. 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 U.S. A former U.S. ambassador to China visited each of China's provinces within his three-year term.

In October 2019 and June 2020, the U.S. made unilateral provocations by imposing restrictions on the activities of Chinese diplomats and consular officers in the U.S. Such restrictions are a serious violation of international law and the basic norms governing international relations.

For example, all Chinese members of China's foreign missions in the U.S. 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, when the destinations are in excess of a 25-mile radius of their places of work or the U.S. ports of their entry.

In the face of the unreasonable provocations, China has no choice but to respond with legitimate and reciprocal countermeasures.

6. False: The U.S. demanded the closure of the Chinese Consulate General in Houston because China did not accord facilities for the reopening of the U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan, Hubei Province in central China, and exemption of nucleic acid tests for returning U.S. diplomats.

Fact: China has never hindered the return of diplomats and consular officers of other countries, including the U.S. To the contrary, China has provided necessary facilities for them to perform their duties in accordance with law.

On January 25, the U.S. unilaterally announced the temporary closure of its consulate general in Wuhan and the evacuation of personnel there. China accorded facilities for the departure of the personnel, for which the U.S. expressed appreciation at different levels. Records are available for verifying the fact.

In June, some U.S. diplomats returned to Wuhan. Since then, China has accorded facilities for the U.S. consulate general to perform its functions in accordance with law.On the basis of respecting their privileges and immunities, China has mandated nucleic acid testing for all foreign diplomats and consular officers entering China. This arrangement has been accepted by the U.S.

7. False: The U.S. claims its demand to take over the premises of the Chinese Consulate General in Houston is consistent with U.S. laws and regulations.

Fact: The outrageous and unreasonable demand violates a number of international laws. Both the land and the premises of the Chinese Consulate General in Houston are the 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 U.S. with the custody of the premises of its consulate general in Houston. The unreasonable demand of the U.S. to take over the premises of the Chinese Consulate General in Houston seriously violates the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and infringes 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 the premises were not covered by consular privileges and immunities, the property is still protected by international law.

8. False: The Chinese Consulate General in Houston threatened dissidents and refugees with the Fox Hunt operation.

Fact: 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 U.S.Combating transnational crimes is a broad consensus of the international community. China's judicial and law-enforcement cooperation with other countries is 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 U.S. 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 the Chinese Consulate General in Houston are Chinese spies. Chinese spies are stirring up trouble all over the world.

Fact: Meddling in other countries' internal affairs has never been 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 principles such 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 U.S. allegation that Chinese diplomats at the consulate general in Houston have carried out espionage in Australia and on other U.S. allies is made up. It is common for diplomats to be rotated in different postings. The U.S. has the world's largest diplomatic service. The Five Eyes intelligence alliance headed by the U.S. has long been engaged in large-scale, organized and indiscriminate cybertheft, wire-tapping and surveillance of 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 Edward Snowden, from the arrest of former ALSTOM executive Frederic 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 the 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.

Fact: The "China-supported counter protests," as claimed by the U.S., were spontaneous, rational patriotic actions by Chinese students exercising their freedom of speech. It is the U.S. that 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 came together only to express their outrage in spontaneous, rational patriotic action. In doing so, they also exercised 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 U.S. 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 behavior on U.S. campus. The U.S. has no interest whatsoever in the safety and wellbeing of Hong Kong residents. It cares only 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.

This is an edited version of a report published by Xinhua News Agency on July 28

Comments to yanwei@bjreview.com

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