Pompeo Restricts Freedom of Movement of Chinese Diplomats in U.S. as Tensions Flare with Beijing

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced restrictions on the freedom of movement of Chinese diplomats in the United States. The announcement comes amid increasingly strained ties with China on matters of the economy, security, human rights abuses, technology, intellectual property, and public health in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Pompeo stressed that the restrictions are a direct response to restrictions placed on American diplomats in China and the “system of opaque approval processes” that limit the extent of their interactions with Chinese society.

“For years, the Chinese Communist Party has imposed significant barriers on American diplomats working inside the PRC [People’s Republic of China],” Pompeo said, noting that the new restrictions will require Chinese diplomats to notify the State Department of any meetings with local government officials or events on university campuses.

“We’re simply demanding reciprocity,” Pompeo continued. “Access for our diplomats in China should be reflective of the access that Chinese diplomats in the United States have and today’s steps will move us substantially in that direction.”

The United States closed the Chinese embassy in Houston over the summer and expelled its diplomats from the country continuing a long sequence of tensions with Beijing. Beijing responded by closing the U.S. consulate in Chengdu.

Last week, the Chinese government rebuked President Donald Trump and accused him of putting his personal self-interest ahead of American interests.

At the time, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Trump, who has threatened to pull American businesses from China, has opted to “violate the will of the business community,” and is seeking to “coerce the normal investment” of companies, behavior that “runs counter to market economy law, which will finally harm themselves.”  

“I believe this is their act which tries to put their self-interests and the interests of their parties above the interests of the United States,” Zhao said. “Such political manipulation is unfeasible.”