Five Chinese employees of an American company arrested in Beijing
Five Chinese employees of the Beijing office of US audit firm Mintz Group have been arrested by Chinese authorities, the group said on Friday.
“Chinese authorities have arrested the five employees of Mintz Group's Beijing office, all of Chinese nationality, and closed our operations there,” the company said in a statement to AFP.
The company assures that it “has not received official notice of a legal procedure” against it, and has “asked the authorities to release its employees”.
It says it has done appealed to lawyers to “dialogue with the authorities and help (its) employees and their families”.
“We have always worked transparently, ethically and in compliance with applicable laws and regulations” in China, the company said, adding that it would work with authorities to “resolve any misunderstandings that may have led to these events.”
Chains on doors
On Friday, AFP journalists found that its offices in Beijing were empty, its doors blocked with chains.
Police offices in the area refused to respond to AFP.
Mintz Group, headquartered in New York, is a firm specializing in the investigation of allegations of fraud, corruption and misconduct in the workplace, as well as background checks.
It has 18 offices in total, including one in Washington. On its site, Mintz Group states that its employees “dig deep into the questions that concern our customers – from the presidential palace to the offshore oil platform”.
In 2017, director of the Asia branch of the group, Randal Phillips , had estimated that the United States should address the problems of structural imbalances caused by Chinese policies and penalizing trade.
A Mintz Group webpage then headlined, “China Must Face Consequences,” with quotes from Mr. Phillips. It appears to have been removed, although archived versions remain available online.
According to US government documents also available in online, Randal Phillips had testified before the release in 2018 of a report by a US congressional committee focused on Chinese attempts to expand its influence abroad.
On the Mintz Group website , Mr. Phillips is described as a veteran of the CIA where he worked for 28 years, “most recently as the CIA’s chief representative in China.”
These arrests come as the US-China relations are at their lowest in decades, with the world's two biggest powers clashing on everything from trade to human rights.
Tensions rose further in February when Washington shot down a suspected spy balloon, which Beijing continues to call a weather device.