New Delhi: The United States flag was on Monday lowered at the American consulate in Chengdu, capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan, China, days after Beijing and Washington decided to cut diplomatic ties including trade. Heavy security has been deployed and the staff are making efforts to clear the premises before the deadline to evacuate the consulate at 10 AM (local time). Also Read - Man Holds On To The Rope After 100 Metre-High Glass Bridge in China Shatters | Photos

The closure was ordered by China on Friday last week calling it a “legitimate and necessary response to the unreasonable measures by the United States”. Also Read - NASA Denounces China Over 'Irresponsible Standards' After its Rocket Disintegrates Over Indian Ocean

“The US’ move seriously breached international law, the basic norms of international relations, and the terms of the China-US Consular Convention. It gravely harmed China-US relations,” the statement said. Also Read - Chinese Rocket Re-Enters Earth, Debris Lands in Indian Ocean West Of Maldives

Scores of onlookers gathered outside the Chengdu consulate with the Chinese flag and took videos and photos of what they believed could be the last time they see the compound in the US hands.

Notably, the Chengu mission covered the entirety of China’s southwest, including Tibet. Previously, many Tibetans have accused the Chinese government of religious repression and disregarding their culture.

China’s move comes in retaliation to the US closing the Chinese consulate in Houston as it that the site hosted spies trying to “intellectual property” from government facilities in Texas, including from A&M medical system and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The administration gave China 72 hours to close the consulate “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information”.

The decision had followed after a New York Post report said the city’s police had received reports that Chinese officials were burning documents at the Consulate on Tuesday evening. A news reporter’s video showed several people surrounding multiple trash cans with documents on fire, in the consulate’s courtyard.

However, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the reasons given by the US for closing the Consulate were “unbelievably ridiculous” and “malicious slander”.

The US and China have been in a severe tit-for-tat situation after the Trump administration renegotiated new terms for bilateral trade with the Xi Jinping government. The relationship between the two countries has been on a downward spiral ever since.