Update: The U.S. State Department has confirmed instructing the Chinese to close their consulate in Houston.

The announcement said: "The closure is to protect American intellectual property and private information. The United States will not tolerate the violation of its sovereignty and the intimidation of its citizens by China. President Trump expects fairness and reciprocity in US-China relations."

At an event hosted by the Hudson Institute recently, FBI Director Chris Wray said China is escalating activity in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic in “what amounts to Chinese theft on a scale so massive that it represents one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history.”

“China is engaged in a whole-of-state effort to become the world’s only superpower by any means necessary,” Wray said. “The greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality, is the counterintelligence and economic espionage threat from China. It’s a threat to our economic security—and by extension, to our national security.”

China's Foreign Ministry Spokesman confirmed to NBC News that the U.S. instructed China to close its Consulate General in Houston within 72 hours and to evacuate all staff members.

Fire and police departments are responding to flames and smoke as witnesses report documents being burned.

The Chinese government called it an "outrageous move", reports Reuters.

Reuters quotes Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin saying China was notified on Tuesday that it must close the consulate.

Authorities responded Tuesday night to reports of a fire at the Consulate General of China in Montrose, where witnesses saw paper being burned outside the facility, a Houston police official told the Houston Chronicle.

The official said Houston police did not have the authority to access the facility. Witnesses in nearby apartment high-rises told police that people were burning paper in what appeared to be trash cans, the official said.

Police were told that occupants of the consulate building were being evicted from the property at 4 p.m. Friday.

Houston, Texas
Houston, TexasiStock