The US has ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, Texas, by Friday a move described as “political provocation” by Beijing.
The US State Department said the decision was taken “in order to protect American intellectual property”.
But China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said it was “outrageous and unjustified”.
The statements came after unidentified individuals were filmed burning paper in bins in the building’s courtyard.
Relations between China and the United States have plummeted in the past year, amid an ongoing trade war, the coronavirus pandemic, and US criticism of China’s human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
A spokesperson for the State Department said in a separate statement that China “has engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations” and that those “activities have increased markedly in scale and scope over the past few years.”
Late Tuesday evening, police in Houston said they responded to reports of smoke in the courtyard outside the consulate, located on Montrose Boulevard, in the city’s Midtown area. Local media shared video of what appeared to be officials inside the compound burning documents.
In a statement posted on its official social media, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the order to close the consulate was a “political provocation unilaterally launched by the US side, which seriously violates international law, basic norms governing international relations and the bilateral consular agreement between China and the US.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry condemned the decision and urged the United States to withdraw it.