Mintz Lawyers Still Stuck In China

Via The Financial Times

Mintz staff stuck in China detention despite warming ties with US
Due diligence group struggling to win release of employees held by Beijing public security bureau since March raid
Joe Leahy and Sun Yu in Beijing YESTERDAY
Mintz Group is struggling to secure the release of five local employees detained in China, said people familiar with the matter, eight months after a raid on the US due diligence firm’s Beijing office alarmed foreign investors in the country.
In the first confirmation of the Mintz employees’ plight since their disappearance during the March raid, people familiar with the matter said they were being held by the Beijing public security bureau, which was investigating them for potential criminal wrongdoing related to their work.
One person close to the company said Mintz was increasing contacts with Chinese and US officials, hoping a recent thaw in diplomatic relations might also help its cause.
The raid on Mintz was the highest profile of moves by Chinese authorities this year on consultancies that also included US group Bain and expert network CapVision and which were carried out at a time when Beijing’s ties with Washington were plumbing decade lows.
Last week, China’s President Xi Jinping met his US counterpart Joe Biden in San Francisco in an attempt to reset bilateral relations, after which China’s leader received a standing ovation at a dinner with US chief executives.
While Xi said at the San Francisco dinner that he might send some pandas back to the US after recalling most of them following the tensions between the two countries, he offered few concrete measures for foreign businesses operating in the country.
Mintz has yet to pay a fine of about $1.5mn levied separately by the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics in July, the people said, indicating that the group’s case remains stuck in a legal limbo despite the improvement in US-China ties.
The people familiar with the matter were unable to say why Mintz had not paid the fine, which the bureau’s website said could be paid with cash into its bank account.
The person close to Mintz said it understood the fine and the detentions were separate matters, but it was seeking to resolve both at the same time and would welcome a dialogue with the authorities.
The statistics bureau said in its decision that between March 2019 and July 2022, Mintz had conducted 37 investigations involving “foreign-related statistics inquiries” without obtaining legally required approval. It did not give further details.
Lawyers have been able to visit the company’s five Chinese employees, who are being held at a location near Beijing by the public security bureau, a branch of the government responsible for policing. It was not clear in what kind of facility they were being held.
The doors of the company’s office in central Beijing were locked with a chain after the raid in March and have since been plastered with landlord notices demanding payment of overdue rent and threatening eviction.
Suggesting no one has been to the office, a building management notice posted during the summer asks tenants to close windows because of seasonal high winds.
Asked about Mintz’s office, a representative of the landlord said the property was the subject of some “trouble”, and could not be let.
China’s foreign ministry referred the FT to the “relevant authority for comment”. The Beijing public security bureau did not accept a request for comment. The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics did not respond to a request for comment.
Mintz declined to comment.
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