Stars and Stripes lowered on US consulate in Chengdu amid rising tensions with China

China US Credit: AP/Press Association Images

The Stars and Stripes has been lowered on the US consulate in Chengdu after China ordered it closed in retaliation for an American order to shut the Chinese Consulate in Houston last week.

The tit-for-tat closings mark a significant escalation in tensions between the two countries over several issues, including trade, technology, security and human rights.

The consulate in southwestern China “has stood at the centre of our relations with the people in Western China, including Tibet, for 35 years,” a statement from the State Department said as it announced the consulate had suspended operations at 10am on Monday.

Chinese paramilitary policemen march near a neighborhood sealed off before the official closure of the US consulate in Chengdu Credit: Ng Han Guan/AP

It expressed disappointment at China’s decision and said the US would try to continue its outreach to the region through its other missions in China.

Removal lorries were seen late on Sunday leaving the complex.

Three medium-size trucks arrived and left a few hours later, and cars with diplomatic plates departed in between.

Police shut the street and pavement in front of the consulate and set up metal barriers along the sidewalk on the other side of the tree-lined road as the closure drew crowds, many taking selfies.

Stars and Stripes lowered on US consulate in Chengdu

Uniformed and plainclothes officers kept watch on both sides of the barriers after scattered incidents, including a man who set off firecrackers and hecklers who cursed at foreign media shooting video and photos of the scene.

One man was taken away as he tried to unfurl a large placard he called an open letter to the Chinese government.

The consulate attracted plenty of public attention in the days before its closure Credit: Ng Han Guan/AP

The US alleged the Houston consulate was a nest of Chinese spies who tried to steal data from facilities in Texas, including the Texas A&M medical system and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

China said the allegations were “malicious slander.”