Chinese authorities have questioned staff at Bain & Company’s Shanghai office, the U.S. consultancy giant said Thursday.
“We can confirm that the Chinese authorities have questioned staff in our Shanghai office. We are cooperating as appropriate with the Chinese authorities. At this time, we have no further comment,” the company told CBS News in an emailed statement.
The Financial Times, which first reported the news Wednesday, said that according to multiple sources, police made a surprise visit to the office two weeks ago. Phones and computers were taken away, but no one was detained, the newspaper said.
The news will likely fuel concern among U.S. companies operating in China that Beijing might take retaliatory action against them for Washington’s moves against Chinese firms.
Last month, U.S. due diligence firm Mintz Group said Chinese police had arrested five of its local employees and shut down its Beijing office. Chinese authorities later said the company was being investigated for “illegal” activities. A few days later, China’s top cybersecurity regulator said it was investigating leading U.S. computer chip maker Micron Technology and would review its products over “national security concerns.”
Tensions have escalated in recent months between Washington and Beijing. In February, the U.S. shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon. Beijing insisted the object was a benign weather monitoring device.
In March, the chief executive of social media giant TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, was grilled by U.S. lawmakers about the app’s data security and privacy practices amid concern in the U.S. that the company could share data with Chinese authorities. TikTok has insisted that it operates independently from China’s government, but there is a growing belief in Washington that the platform represents a national security threat.
Just last week, meanwhile, FBI agents arrested two people who have been accused of operating an illegal Chinese police station in New York City. The U.S. Justice Department has called the operation a bid to influence and intimidate dissidents critical of the Chinese government in the U.S.
As U.S.-China relations have soured, U.S. businesses operating in the country believe they have already suffered from the fallout.
“There certainly is a chill in the air,” Michael Hart, who heads the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, told CBS News in March. “Companies feel like they’re squeezed out of certain industries, and so there is a question mark that many U.S. companies have about, you know, are we really welcome?”