Frontier Services Group (FSG), a Hong Kong-listed security firm founded by a former US Navy Seal, has signed a preliminary deal to run a training base in Xinjiang, China, where Uighur Muslims have experienced a huge security crackdown.

The group specializes in providing security and logistics for businesses based in risky regions and said it signed a deal to run the base in Kashgar, according to a statement on its Chinese website.

The group was founded by Erik Prince, a former US Navy Seal, and the brother of US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Prince also founded US military contractor Blackwater, a company dogged by controversy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hong Kong-based FSG has many contracts inside China and with Chinese companies operating overseas, particularly in Africa.

Its presence in Xinjiang will be controversial due to the large security crackdown Chinese authorities launched in the region, which reportedly includes mass incarcerations.

On Friday, a spokesman told AFP that Prince, a minority shareholder and deputy chairman of FSG, had been unaware of the deal, which was preliminary and would require all members of the company’s board to sign off on before final approval.

Up to one million Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups were being held in detention in camps in Xinjiang, according to a group of experts cited by the United Nations.

Beijing claims the facilities are only “vocational education centers” aimed at helping people stay clear of terrorism. Critics and former detainees say the facilities are simply prisons.

The group’s original Chinese language statement said one of its subsidiaries had signed a deal for a “training center” with the Kashgar Caohu industrial park in southern Xinjiang. The January 11 signing ceremony was attended by officials from Xinjiang’s Tumxuk city and a subsidiary of the state-run conglomerate CITIC Group. The statement did not detail what kind of training would be provided.

FSG’s website says it previously trained “overseas security specialists” for many Chinese companies and also trained Chinese military and police.

Last month FSG announced it had obtained a security license to operate in Cambodia, where it aims to provide “cash escort, airport security (and) VIP close protection.”

With reporting by AFP