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 the Beijing office of Mintz Group, all of Chinese nationality, and have closed our operations there,” the company said in a statement to AFP.
The company assures that it “has not received any official notice of legal proceedings” against it, and has “asked the authorities to release its employees”.
She says she called on lawyers to “dialogue with the authorities and help (her) 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 the authorities to “resolve any misunderstandings that may have led to these events”.
Chains on the doors
On Friday, AFP journalists found that its premises 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 group’s Asia branch, Randal Phillips, felt 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 U.S. government documents also available online, Randal Phillips testified before the release in 2018 of a U.S. congressional committee report that focused on Chinese attempts to expand its influence overseas.
On the Mintz Group website, Mr. Phillips is described as a former CIA employee where he worked for 28 years, “most recently as the CIA’s chief representative in China.”
The arrests come at a time when 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 escalated further in February when Washington shot down a suspected spy balloon, which Beijing continues to call a weather device.
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