Houston businesses worried over Chinese consulate closure fallout

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Having purchased dozens of shower curtains to separate her guests, Debbie Chen is doing her best to present a clean environment for her diners. Trying to keep her restaurant Shabu House afloat is more than a full-time job, so she didn't hear about the State Department ordering the Chinese Consulate to shut down right away.

"When we first heard about it, I thought somebody was saying it was a joke," said Che, who is active in a number of civic activities in town with other Americans of Chinese heritage. "It was unimaginable."

But two days ago, Montrose area neighbors saw consulate workers burning documents in their courtyard, and both countries have traded political barbs on national TV. It's clear to many there are few options left.

ORIGINAL STORY: Documents burned on the grounds of the Chinese Consulate in Houston
EMBED More News Videos

Will a last minute deal with the U.S. allow the Chinese consulate in Houston to stay open.

"The Consulate is going to be closed," said Prof. Jon Taylor, Chair of the Political Science Department at UT-San Antonio. "The question is just how long. If we're talking a negotiating ploy? A tit-for-tat that will occur."

Taylor, who has children from China and has published research in this area, says, at this point, he doesn't see how the Trump administration will change its mind, even if the forced closure is unusual.

"If we're going to be claiming that Chinese diplomats were engaged in espionage, the common thing is to single out that person and boot them out of the country," said Taylor. "Not the entire consulate. This is really ratcheting up things."

ABC13 spoke to Chinese Consul General Cai Wei on Wednesday, at which time, he said, the consulate will be operating "like normal." Even though everyone could see workers moving items out of the building, Wei was not ready to say the staff would be leaving.

"We'll see what happens," is how he left things.

"Houston is a very international city," said local real estate broker Kenneth Li, who is also vice-chair of the board at the Asian Chamber of Commerce. He is chiefly concerned about the business impact. "We say we welcome all the nationalities. I hope this political thing won't affect people who live in Houston. All are welcome."

SEE ALSO: What Chinese Consul General said about consulate closure
EMBED More News Videos

Watch ABC13 reporter Miya Shay's one-on-one interview with the Chinese Consul General, who discusses the fire overnight after the U.S. ordered the consulate to close this week.

Follow Miya Shay on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Related topics:
Copyright © 2020 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.