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Consulate attack condemned

By Chen Jia in San Francisco | China Daily USA | Updated: 2014-01-03 14:49

 Consulate attack condemned

Wang Chuan, spokesman of the Chinese consulate general in San Francisco, introduces the damages done by an arsonist attack on the consulate which happened on Wednesday evening. Chen Jia / China Daily

The Chinese government condemned an arsonist attack on China's consulate general in San Francisco on New Year's Day and urged the US to ensure the safety of Chinese missions in the US and find the person responsible promptly.

Local police and the FBI are investigating the case.

At 9:25 pm, a person got out of a minivan parked in front of the consulate building, splashed two buckets of a flammable liquid on the front gate and set it on fire, surveillance video of the consulate showed.

No injuries were reported, but the building was severely damaged.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said on Thursday in Beijing that China condemned the act and urged the US government to enhance security on Chinese diplomatic missions and personnel. He also asked the US government to make a prompt investigation and bring the person or persons responsible to justice.

Chinese diplomatic missions overseas are rarely attacked. The last time China's San Francisco consulate was attacked was five years ago when an unidentified person set fire to the visa office.

The Chinese consulate gave its surveillance camera tapes as evidence to the FBI.

"We have initiated emergency security procedures and are in close touch with the San Francisco police," Wang Chuan, spokesperson for consulate, said on Thursday morning. "No visa application or non-visa services are affected."

FBI spokesman Peter Lee said the bureau was not investigating the event as an act of terrorism and the fire was caused by a gas-based liquid with accelerants.

Wang said the steel-encased wooden door and glass windows at the main entrance were charred and damaged in the fire and would not be fixed any time soon, as they were being held as evidence.

No confirmed details of the suspect's nationality or identity have been made available to the media, he said.

"We have no casualties as the arson attack happened during off-work hours," he said. "But the despicable act caused severe damage to the consulate facilities and poses a threat to the safety of the consulate staff, their family members and the nearby neighborhood."

Marie Harf, StateDepartment deputy spokeswoman, said on Thursday that after the incident, the State Department had been in immediate contact with the Chinese consulate and the Chinese embassy in Washington

"We take this incident very seriously, and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security is working with the FBI and local authorities to investigate and apprehend the perpetrators," she said.

"It is so terrible to see such disrespectful behavior," said Tom Jenkins, a tourist from Oregon who happened to be passing by the site. "Anger should have a better way to express itself." Zhang Jie, a Chinese lawyer and visiting scholar from Chicago, told China Daily he drove an hour from his hotel to show his support for the consulate.

"I don't think this arson attack will influence the Sino-US relationship, but the American government must take this incident seriously and find out who committed this crime," he said. "They must give an answer to the Chinese government.

"As everyone knows, all consulates are protected," he said. "It is shocking and infuriating that something like this has happened."

He Konghua, chair of the US Chinese Women Cultural Organization, said the fire was "an extremely serious, malignant, and political offense."

Qidong Zhang in San Francisco and Chen Weihua in Washington contributed to the story.


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