BEIJING: China on Monday (Jul 27) said it was not aware of the case involving Singaporean Dickson Yeo and urged the United States to "stop using the so-called espionage issue to smear" the country.
Yeo pleaded guilty last week in the US to working for Chinese intelligence. The former National University of Singapore (NUS) PhD student said he was recruited by Chinese intelligence operatives in Beijing and helped to collect sensitive information about the US military and government.
When asked about the case at a regular press briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that it was "open knowledge" that the US conducts espionage activities.
"It is open knowledge that the US runs an aggressive espionage and theft programme all across the globe, sparing not even its allies. There's solid evidence for this," said Wang.
"The world has seen the act of the real thief crying 'stop the thief' too many times," he said. "We urge the US to stop using the so-called espionage issue to smear China."
Wang said he was not aware of the matter involving Yeo, but added that the United States has been "hyping up" such issues.
"I'm not aware of what you just mentioned," he said, in response to a reporter's question. "But I would like to point out that lately, US law enforcement has been busy hyping up the so-called China infiltration and espionage issues to the point of paranoia."
READ: Arrest of Dickson Yeo: Investigations have not revealed any direct threat to Singapore's security, says MHA
CLOSING OF CONSULATE "LEGITIMATE AND NECESSARY"
The spokesperson's remarks came on the same day that Beijing announced the US consulate in Chengdu was closed. It ordered the facility to shut after China was ousted from its consulate in Houston, Texas.
The closure of the Chengdu consulate is China's "legitimate and necessary response" to the "unjustified US act" of closing China's consulate in Houston, Wang told reporters.
He said that some US staff members at the Chengdu consulate "were engaged in activities outside of their capacity, interfered in China's internal affairs, and endangered China's security and interests".
Washington officials, meanwhile, have said there had been unacceptable efforts by the Chinese consulate in Houston to steal US corporate secrets and proprietary medical and scientific research.
Footage on state broadcaster CCTV from outside the Chengdu consulate showed the American flag being slowly lowered early Monday morning.
Chinese diplomats left the Houston consulate last Friday, with officials there seen loading large sacks of documents and other items onto trucks, and throwing some in bins.
US-China ties have deteriorated sharply this year over issues ranging from the coronavirus and telecoms-gear maker Huawei to China's territorial claims in the South China Sea and its clampdown on Hong Kong.