A company founded by former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince and listed in Hong Kong, Frontier Services Group (FSG), signed a contract to construct a training camp in China’s far western region on Xianjiang, according to a statement cited by Reuters on January 31st.
Xinjiang is an important part of China’s sprawling Belt and Road infrastructure network but the region has faced attacks blamed on members of the Muslim ethnic Uighur minority. For most of 2018, MSM has continued reporting that China has been operating camps for the Uighurs.
A state media report said that FSG was to allegedly invest 40 million yuan ($6 million) in the centre, which will have the capacity to train 8,000 people a year.
FSG, a security, logistics and insurance provider, signed a deal with the Kashgar Caohu industrial park in southern Xinjiang to build a training centre, FSG said in a Chinese-language statement on its website. The statement said the deal had been signed on January 11th according to reports and even had a picture of the signing ceremony in Beijing.
The statement has since been removed from the website. The removed statement had said that FSG signed a deal with the Kashgar Caohu industrial park in Tumxuk city in southern Xinjiang to build a training centre.
The Tumxuk government did not answer a phone call seeking comment
On February 1st, Erik Prince’s spokesperson said that Prince had “no knowledge or involvement” in a preliminary memorandum signed by a Hong Kong-listed company to build a training base in China’s far western region of Xinjiang.
“Any potential investment of this nature would require the knowledge and input of each FSG Board member and a formal Board resolution,” the spokesman said in an email.
A spokesman for FSG, cited by Reuters also said that the statement was “published in error by a staff member in Beijing” and had been taken off FSG’s website.
Furthermore, according to a Bloomberg report, Prince is now simply a deputy chairman, a minority holder and a board member of FSG, so he doesn’t posses the authority to decide for himself.
However, the $1 trillion Chinese CITIC investment conglomerate now owns 26% of FSG. Chang Zhenming is the chairman of Chairman of CITIC Group and CITIC Ltd. He, as of December 2018 is also chairman of FSG.
The entire FSG is stacked with Chinese investors and leadership.
Furthermore, Bloomberg provided a timeline of how Prince’s company came under CITIC’s control, starting in October 2013 with a meeting between Erik Prince and Chang Zhenming.
Bloomberg also cited Deputy Chairman Johnson Ko, according to whom the possible Xinjian base would be for safety training of workers going abroad under the Belt and Road initiative.
He didn’t say whether the company will move forward with the camp.
“It’s for overseas workers, not domestic,” he said by phone. “That one I think is more CITIC.”
FSG told Reuters in 2017 that it planned to set up an office in Xinjiang.
“Unlike Blackwater, which became infamous after killing 14 Iraqi civilians in a Baghdad square, FSG focuses on logistics and security, rather than paramilitary operations.
Nonetheless, FSG’s controversial business with the Chinese government has thrust Prince back into the spotlight. Critics accuse FSG of potentially helping the Beijing government engage in mass repression of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in western Xinjiang and, in the process, advancing the geopolitical agenda of a strategic U.S. competitor,” Bloomberg reported.