Frontier Services Group (FSG), an insurance and logistics firm based in Hong Kong and co-founded by former U.S. military service contractor Erik Prince, is reportedly involved in setting up a training base in the Xinjiang region in China. The place is an important part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and has seen great tensions over the past years, with the Chinese regime persecuting the Uyghur population in the area.
Xinjiang training center
FSG has previously trained overseas security specialists for several Chinese companies and has also been active in the training of Chinese police and military. Being a critical part of BRI, Xinjiang has seen a rapid rise in demand for security services.
To set up operations in Xinjiang, FSG is said to have inked a deal with the Kashgar Caohu industrial park located in the southern section of the region. The signing ceremony was attended by officials from the CITIC Guoan Construction and Tumxuk City. However, it was not disclosed as to what kind of training would be provided in the center.
Tumxuk City is operated by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a paramilitary group largely led by the Han community. The group was originally sent into Xinjiang in the 1950s to secure the area so as to set up farms and other settlements. Today, the corps acts as a parallel government, operating in conjunction with the local authorities.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Erik and FSG stated that the former military contractor “had no knowledge or involvement whatsoever with this preliminary memorandum regarding the company’s activity in Xinjiang… Any potential investment of this nature would require the knowledge and input of each FSG Board member and a formal Board resolution.” (CNN).
FSG will be investing close to 40 million Yuan (approximately US$6 million) in the training center, which is estimated to have a capacity to train up to 8,000 people every year.
Even though the Chinese regime claims that the detention centers it runs in Xinjiang provide vocational education to the Uyghurs, several reports suggest that detainees are being forced into labor camps. Last month, a U.S.-based clothing retailer, Badger Sportswear, was accused of sourcing products from a Chinese supplier that used Xinjiang’s forced labor camps to manufacture the items. The company quickly decided to end its relationship with the supplier Heitan Taida.
“Out of an abundance of caution and to eliminate any concerns about our supply chain given the controversy around doing business in Northwestern China, we will no longer source any product from Hetian Taida or this region of China. Furthermore, we will not ship any product sourced from Hetian Taida currently in our possession. Given this supplier only accounted for approximately one percent of our total annual sales, we do not expect any interruption in our service levels,” the company said in a statement.
Close to a million Uyghurs have gone through the “education camps” run by the Chinese regime, out of which a few thousand are said to be involved in forced labor. The entire region is heavily guarded by thousands of security personnel. As such, the announcement of Erik Prince’s FSG being involved in training security forces in the region is being seen by experts as a red flag.
There is no law that prohibits FSG from training Chinese security. However, the American political administration might decide to intervene in case it is proven that the people being trained by the company are being used by the Chinese regime to suppress the Uygur community.