Confusion reigned on Friday over whether a unit of Hong Kong-listed security firm Frontier Services Group – founded by Blackwater’s Erik Prince – had signed a preliminary memorandum to build a training base in China’s far west region of Xinjiang. FSG earlier posted a statement on its website announcing that a memorandum was signed on January 11 between one of its units, FSG Security, and the Management Committee of Caohu Industrial Park in the city of Tumxuk, for the construction of a training centre. The statement also had a photo of a signing ceremony in Beijing. Prince, FSG’s executive director and deputy chairman, is a former US Navy Seal officer and the brother of US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. However, a spokesman of Prince later told Reuters that the co-founder had “no knowledge or involvement” in the memorandum. “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. Prince has been deputy chairman of the board since December 6, according to the company’s website. Citic chairman Chang Zhenming was appointed FSG board chairman 11 days later. The statement said the signing ceremony was attended by Citic Group assistant president Luo Ning, and officials from several other Citic subsidiaries. A Hong Kong-based spokesman for FSG told Reuters that the statement was “published in error by a staff member in Beijing” and had been taken off the company’s website. Why a private US military firm is of value to China’s belt and road mission When asked on Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang declined to comment. China’s controls on Xinjiang face increasing international scrutiny, with Western human rights groups reporting that Chinese authorities have sent hundreds of thousands of Muslims of the Uygur minority to re-education camps in the region. The Chinese government has disputed the charges saying the camps are vocational training facilities. Prince founded Blackwater in 1997, and the company won US government contracts to guard American officials and facilities in countries including Iraq and Afghanistan. The company was surrounded by controversy in 2007 when its guards were convicted of manslaughter after firing on civilians in Baghdad, and is now defunct. FSG, which was founded in 2014, counts China’s state-owned conglomerate Citic Group as one of its major shareholders and has bought training facilities in Beijing. In an interview with the state-run tabloid Global Times in 2017, Prince rejected suggestions that his company would “help the Chinese government suppressing the Uygurs”, saying such claims were “absurd” and “totally fabricated”. “Any claim FSG would provide Blackwater kind of armed security service is absolutely wrong,” Prince was quoted as saying. FSG employees at the training bases would be unarmed and only help non-military personnel provide non-military security services, including training as personal bodyguards, information analysis and risk assessment, he said. “These bases will simulate different environments ... and train people in [them],” he was quoted as saying. China and CNN in row over Uygur campaigner’s account of deaths of nine people in Xinjiang camp The deal between FSG and the Caohu Industrial Park was signed in Beijing, together with another cooperation project between Citic Group and the Third Division of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a paramilitary settlement group parallel to the regional government, on the development of Tumxuk. Tumxuk is a county-level city run by the division, and is surrounded by Kashgar prefecture in the western-most part of Xinjiang. In the FSG statement, Tumxuk Communist Party boss Li Zhenguo was quoted as that he hoped the FSG training base and the other projects would help attract investment to Xinjiang.