Amid ongoing tensions between the United States and China, authorities in Houston responded to reports of documents being set on fire on the grounds of the Consulate General of China. Officials from Houston's fire and police department received a call stating the consulate was burning documents just after 8 p.m. in the courtyard of the premises on Montrose Boulevard.
Local media outlets shared video footage obtained from a concerned citizen living next to the consulate showing what appears to be several trash cans or open containers packed with items. People could be seen throwing things into the flaming bins and documents scattered over the ground as smoke continued to emanate from the courtyard of the consulate. Watch the video below:
'We Have Not Been Allowed Access'
A small amount of smoke could be seen and smelled from the outside as dozens of Houston first responders arrived at the consulate.
"You could just smell the paper burning," a witness at the scene told a local news outlet. "But, all the firefighters were just surrounding the building. They couldn't go inside."
Responders could not enter the property until they were allowed access as the consulate is considered Chinese territory.
"It appears to be open burning in a container within the courtyard of the Chinese consulate facility. It does not appear to be an unconfined fire but we have not been allowed access. We are standing by and monitoring," said Chief Sam Pena.
US Shutting Down All Chinese Embassies?
A Houston police source told KPRC 2 that the consulate and a compound on Almeda Road, where many employees of the consulate reside, have been asked to vacate the premises by Friday.
In September 2017, a similar incident took place at the Russian embassy in San Francisco. Black smoke was seen billowing out of the chimney as employees burned items in the fireplace after the U.S. government forced the embassy to shut down.
When firefighters showed up to investigate, they were turned away by staff and told the consulate was "burning unidentified items in a fireplace."
The Trump administration ordered the Russians to close all of its outposts in the United States except for its embassy in Washington and consulates in Seattle and Houston, after Moscow forced the US to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia.