The Chinese consulate in New York has dismissed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s suggestion that it is serving as a hub for Chinese espionage in the U.S., rejecting the allegations as slander.
Pompeo told the New York Post on Wednesday that the facility was engaged in unusual activity. The consulate is the latest Chinese diplomatic facility to find itself in Pompeo’s crosshairs, after the closure of the Houston consulate earlier this year amid allegations of espionage.
“They’re engaged in activities where they’re crossing the line from normal diplomacy to the kinds of things that would be more akin to what spies are doing,” Pompeo told the Post when asked about the consulate’s activities.
The consulate rejected the accusation on Friday. “The U.S. side deliberately distorts normal exchanges between the consulate and its consular district with the false accusation, which is obviously groundless and unpopular,” it said in a statement posted to its website.
The statement said the consulate “always acts in accordance with international law and bilateral agreements between China and the U.S. and has been promoting mutual understanding, cooperation and friendship between the two countries.”
“There has never been any ‘espionage’ activity and the accusation is nothing but vicious slander,” a consulate spokesperson said.
The New York consulate could be the next Chinese facility to come under pressure from President Donald Trump’s administration, amid a diplomatic freeze between Washington, D.C., and Beijing.
In July, the administration ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, accusing it of serving as a hub for Chinese intelligence gathering in the U.S. The Chinese government retaliated by closing the U.S. consulate in the city of Chengdu.
Then, Trump said more closures of Chinese diplomatic centers were “always possible.” As well as New York, Beijing has consulates in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Pompeo told a meeting of governors in February that Chinese consulates were part of Beijing’s influence operations within the U.S.
“Chinese consulates in New York, in Illinois, in Texas, and two in California, bound by the diplomatic responsibilities and rights of the Vienna Convention, are very politically active at the state level, as is the embassy right here in Washington, D.C.,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo named the Chinese consul general in New York as among those involved in such activities. He cited a letter sent by the consul general in New York to the speaker of the state legislature in January, urging the lawmaker not to support Taiwan’s independent status.