Houston police and firefighters rushed to the office of the Consulate General of China following reports of fire activity. According to local media, the officials at the Chinese consulate building were burning documents in the courtyard and as the nearby residents saw smoke billowing from the compound, they informed the police.
The incident was reported shortly after the United States asked China to vacate its consulate office in Houston. A Houston-based news website shared footage of the incident which shows the police and firefighters trying to enter the building as smoke comes out of it.
Houston police informed that they arrived at the site after getting a call regarding a fire at the Chinese consulate building but were not allowed to enter the premises.
"About 8:25 pm on Tuesday, our officers responded to a meet the firefighter call to the China Consulate General in Houston building at 3417 Montrose Blvd. Smoke was observed in an outside courtyard area. Officers were not granted access to enter the building," the Houston Police Department (HPD) said in a statement.
"Since HPD is not a lead agency in the matter, no other information is being released by our department at this time," it added.
US asked to shut Houston consulate, says China
Shortly after fire activity, China said that the US had abruptly told it to close its consulate in the city of Houston, a move that it strongly condemns.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily news briefing that China had been notified on Tuesday that it must close the consulate.
"The unilateral closure of China's consulate general in Houston within a short period of time is an unprecedented escalation of the US' recent actions against China. We urge the US to immediately revoke this erroneous decision. Should it insist on going down this wrong path, China will react with firm countermeasures," said Wenbin.
He further added that the consulate was operating normally but did not reply to questions about the fire.
Hu Xijin, Editor of the Communist Party's Global Times newspaper, said on Twitter that the US gave China 72 hours to vacate the Houston Consulate office.
"The US asked China to close Consulate General in Houston in 72 hours. This is a crazy move," he wrote.