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U.S. consulate office in China closes after white powder is found

May 14, 2013|By Barbara Demick

BEIJING -- A U.S. consulate in China was forced to suspend some operations after an envelope was found containing a suspicious white power.

The envelope was discovered Monday by a staffer in the office that issues visas and handles American citizen services in the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou. The consulate posted a notice on its website saying that the office would be closed through Wednesday, but an official at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said it is possible that it will be longer.

"That office has temporarily suspended operations until an investigation is completed," Nolan Barkhouse, an embassy spokesman, said Tuesday. There was no indication anybody was injured by the substance in the envelope, he said, but "all precautionary measures have been taken for handling this kind of situation."

According to an article in the Yangcheng Evening News, the envelope was discovered in a staff section of the consulate not open to the public. A bag containing powder was broken and the substance spilled onto the clothing of a staff member. The office was evacuated and the substance sent out to a laboratory to be tested.

The consulate in Guangzhou is one of the busiest in the consular service handling most immigrant visas and adoptions from China.

Since 2001, when letters poisoned with anthrax killed five people in the U.S., there have been thousands of hoaxes involving letters sent with white powder.

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