HOUSTON - Local authorities say the implications of abruptly closing the Houston Chinese Consulate will be long-lasting.
For the last 24 hours, Bin Yu, the Board Chair for the Houston Asian Chamber of Commerce, like much of the world, has been searching for more specific answers as to why the Trump administration is evicting the Houston Chinese Consulate from its building on Montrose Blvd. The Consulate has been there for nearly 40 years.
On Tuesday, classified documents were reportedly being burned in the courtyard.
"Right now, I think more people have more questions than answers. The major question is who or where to go to get that support from the consulate office standpoint. Are they going to route it to a different office? And what happened to the paperwork already submitted," Yu said.
All afternoon on Wednesday, unmarked vans were seen pulling up to the side of the Chinese Consulate building to load and transport large black trash bags from inside.
Many local and state officials say they were caught off guard but the abrupt closure and question what this means for ex-pats and travelers trying to get a Visa. Additionally, authorities worry about the potential massive political and economic fallout as the Chinese Foreign Ministry has already vowed to retaliate if nothing is done to rectify the unprecedented move.
During his daily COVID-19 news briefing, Mayor Sylvester Turner credited China for playing an instrumental role in providing heaps of PPE to help the U.S. combat COVID-19. Turner said Houston's partnership with China generates approximately $14 billion for the economy.
"I think one place that China has already threatened to retaliate on is that they will stop and end us all in gas contracts. Most of those contracts are with our state. They're buying Texas oil and gas. They can very well just say no, we're done and that would be a loss of billions of dollars," said Gene Wu, TX State Rep. Dist 137.
Although U.S.-China tensions already existed leading up to this, Wu worries it may now take the already struggling economy even longer to recover.
"There's a lot of things that we disagree on with the Chinese. Everything from human rights violations to handling Hong Kong to the mistreatment of Muslims. These are things that we can discuss, things that we can talk about, things that we can negotiate over. But closing of a diplomatic building, the closing of a diplomatic center is a prelude to war," Wu said.
Perhaps worse of all, Wu worries it may increase negative perceptions and mistreatment towards Asian-Americans.
"It's not just Chinese Americans that are in danger. But it's all Asian Americans, because as we've seen with COVID-19 issues that there has been a dramatic spike in anti-Asian American attacks both physical and verbal," Wu said.
"They just hope other people don’t put a negative perception on them. They are hardworking people, like any other Americans," Yu said.