Consular officials have vacated the Chinese consulate in Houston after the US ordered the facility to shut down. After they left, federal agents were seen checking the locked entrance and trying to crack a door lock.
Vans bearing diplomatic plates departed the building as the 4 p.m. local time (2100 UTC/GMT) Friday deadline arrived for the consulate to close. At that point, federal agents checked the locked doors of the consulate and a locksmith was seen working to crack the lock on one door.
A small group of protesters also gathered across the street and played a recording criticizing the Chinese government. It was not immediately clear if the consulate had been cleared of consular staff.
Washington alleged that the consulate was used by the Chinese for espionage, and to steal US corporate secrets and proprietary scientific research. China called the allegations "malicious slander" and retaliated by ordering the US to close its consulate in the western Chinese city of Chengdu.
Tit-for-tat diplomatic row
Beijing says closing the Chengdu consulate was a "legitimate and necessary response to the unreasonable measures by the United States," and has alleged that US staff at the facility endangered China's security and interests.
The deadline for the Americans to exit Chengdu remains unclear but on Saturday, staff at the US consulate in Chengdu were busy packing belongings and removing American insignia from the building.
A worker on a small crane removed a circular US insignia from the front of the consulate, leaving just an American flag flying on the now unmarked site.
Other staff were seen moving trolleys around inside, one carrying a large empty metal bin, while some wheeled suitcases.
Tensions have soared between the two countries on a range of fronts, including trade, China's handling of the coronavirus and a new security law for Hong Kong, with the US this week warning of a "new tyranny" from China.