Sources claimed some employees of American consulting Mintz Group who were located in Hong Kong have departed the city after the company’s Beijing headquarters was raided by Chinese authorities in March.
As Beijing gets ready to enact more stringent anti-espionage regulations in July, inquiries into Mintz, as well as the American management consulting firm Bain & Co. and the Chinese mainland assistance Capvision Partners, have put a chill through businesses that do business with China.
Many are unsure of where red lines stand.
Moving personnel out of Hong Kong quickly demonstrates how the Chinese crackdown has alarmed some businesses in the world’s financial centre, many of which are still figuring out how to comply with a national security regulation Beijing placed on the city in 2020.
The relocations over the past few months involved about six people, notably investigators and the chief of the Hong Kong office, and were intended to be a temporary solution to guarantee staff safety given the uncertainties surrounding the Chinese police investigation.
Up until this year, as claimed by insiders who were briefed by Mintz employees, the company had conducted corporation due diligence activity looking into the potential use of unlawful labour in supply chains connected to the Xinjiang area of China.
It was impossible to say whether Mintz’s research on Xinjiang was the cause of the Chinese police investigation.
However, at least two additional senior executives from multinational due diligence companies with operations in China claimed that in recent months, officials had specifically advised them against doing such work.
Many of the Hong Kong-situated Mintz workers are currently in Singapore, according to one of the people who has dealt with the company on a professional level, and there is no intention for them to revert to Hong Kong until the Chinese officials’ investigation is complete.
In Mintz office in Hong Kong, two employees at adjoining offices claimed they had not seen anyone in the Mintz facilities in the last few months, despite a building’s management office staffer stating that Mintz continued to pay rent on its office.
Based on investigation of old versions of the site, several Mintz staff members’ profiles have been taken down. The functions of everyone who left were unclear.
In late March, Mintz confirmed the search at its Beijing office and stated that it had shut down activities there.
Mintz also stated that it was prepared to cooperate with the Chinese government to rectify any misunderstandings that may have resulted in these events.
The full extent of the probe against Mintz has not been disclosed by Chinese authorities, but the office raid and the detention facilities of five staff members from the mainland, notably the manager of Mintz’s Beijing office, have shook the reputable advisory service sector in China, with reverberations now being felt in Hong Kong.
With major businesses like Kroll, McKinsey, Control Risks, and FTI situated there, Hong Kong offers a rich talent pool for professional services, notably corporate investigations.
The United States has just updated its risk assessment for American citizens in Hong Kong, stressing the increased chances of arrest, detention, deportation, or prosecution following the passage of a China-based national security law around 2020.
Authorities in China and Hong Kong disagree with Western critiques of the public security law, claiming that all nations, notably the United States, require such laws and that human rights are upheld.
Requests for reflect from China’s Public Security Bureau were not returned. No one from the Ministry of State Security was available for comment.