China said Wednesday that the U.S. has ordered it to close its consulate in Houston in what an official called an outrageous and unjustified move that will sabotage China-U.S. relations.
Hu Xijin, Editor-in-chief of China's state-run Global Times in a tweet said: "The US asked China to close Consulate General in Houston in 72 hours. This is a crazy move."
Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin condemned the action, which comes as tensions rise between the world's two largest economies. He warned of firm countermeasures if the U.S. does not reverse its decision.
"The unilateral closure of China's consulate general in Houston within a short period of time is an unprecedented escalation of its recent actions against China," Wang said at a daily news briefing.
There was no immediate confirmation or explanation from the U.S. side.
Media reports in Houston said that authorities had responded to reports of a fire at the consulate. Witnesses said that people were burning paper in what appeared to be trash cans, the Houston Chronicle reported, citing police.
China's move to impose national security law in Hong Kong, its human rights violation in Xinjiang and territorial aggression in South China Sea have all drawn fierce criticism from Washington.
Accusing China of bullying smaller countries, US Defence Secretary Mark T Esper on Tuesday vowed to deter against China's "coercive behaviour" in the South China Sea.
Earlier, it was reported that police and fire officials in Houston are responding to reports that documents are being burned in courtyard of Consulate General of China in Houston, NBC News reported cited Houston Police Department.
Houston police said they began receiving the reports that documents were being burned just after 8 p.m.
As per reports, Houston fire officials confirmed they are responding to the scene and HPD officials were needed for traffic control in the area.
(With inputs from ANI and PTI)