The entrance to the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco’s Western Addition was badly burned in an arson attack Wednesday night, prompting an FBI investigation and a plea from the Chinese government for better security by local authorities at its U.S. offices.
The attack happened at 9:25 p.m. when someone pulled up in a minivan to the consulate at 1450 Laguna St., poured gasoline on the front door and ignited a fire, consulate officials said.
Firefighters arrived within minutes and put out the blaze, which burned the building’s doorway and left its facade blackened.
Consulate offices were closed at the time, though a handful of employees were working when the fire started, said consulate spokesman Wang Chuan. No injuries were reported.
“We strongly condemn this despicable act,” Chuan said. “We urge the U.S. side to take all necessary measures to provide adequate protection for Chinese consular personnel and properties, and bring the culprits to justice as soon as possible.”
FBI officials confirmed Thursday that they were leading the investigation into the crime. No arrests have been made, and security around the building was increased.
“The intent was to set the place ablaze,” said FBI spokesman Peter Lee.
He declined to speculate on a motive, but said the incident appeared to be isolated and did not constitute a threat to national security.
The attack was filmed by a surveillance camera, Chinese officials said.
A similar fire occurred at the consulate on March, 21 2008, when a group of people poured flammable liquid on a security gate at the rear of the building and set it ablaze. There were no injuries.
That attack, which FBI officials said was not related to Wednesday’s, came the same day the San Francisco Board of Supervisors was hearing public comment on China’s human rights record in advance of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The issue had arisen because of the planned passage of the Olympic torch through San Francisco.
Despite the damage from the latest fire, consulate offices were open Thursday. Hongyu Cui, who drove with her mother from San Jose to pick up a passport, was upset about the arson.
“This kind of thing shouldn’t happen,” she said.