The fire that broke out at China’s consulate in Houston was likely due to its staff burning evidence of Chinese intelligence activities in the US, former US State Department official Mark Kimmitt told Al Arabiya on Sunday.
“It’s clear that those officials were burning the documents because they had evidence in them of probably Chinese intelligence activities that were going on in the United States [and] also lists of names of personnel that were in the United States under intelligence cover,” said retired US Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, who previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, in an interview with Al Arabiya English.
The Trump administration ordered China on Wednesday to shut down its consulate in Texas on accusations of “intellectual property theft.”
On Tuesday evening, local media revealed footage of a fire in the consulate’s courtyard and what appeared to be paper documents being burned in barrels.
This video shared with us by a viewer who lives next to the Consulate General of China in #Houston shows fire and activity in the courtyard of the building.— KPRC2Tulsi (@KPRC2Tulsi) July 22, 2020
DETAILS SO FAR: https://t.co/2cOeKoap96 pic.twitter.com/0myxe6HIlC
The consulate’s staff “did what you would expect them to do when they were told the consulate was about to be closed,” said Kimmitt. “They took this large amount of intelligence information, put it into a dumpster and set it on fire.”
Republican Senator Marco Rubio, acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Fox News on Wednesday that the consulate was “the central node of a massive spy operation.”
#China’s Houston consulate is a massive spy center, forcing it to close is long overdue.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 22, 2020
Chinese spies attempted to steal data from institutions including the Texas A&M medical system and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, according to the State Department.
China responded to the accusations, calling them “malicious slander,” and subsequently ordered the US to close its consulate in the western Chinese city of Chengdu.
In addition to the conflict over the consulate, three Chinese scientists living in the US were charged with visa fraud for allegedly lying about their status as members of China’s People’s Liberation Army, the US Justice Department said Thursday.
Chinese President Jinping Xi sees “the rest of the world as a resource manufacturer for the people of China,” said Kimmitt, adding that Beijing is trying to steal American intellectual property and information from laboratories in the United States.
“China is like a very large creature that is devouring all the resources of the rest of the world for the people of China,” said Kimmitt.