At a closed-door security meeting of US companies in Singapore on Thursday, one topic was high on the agenda: the arrest of a top executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei and the potential backlash on American firms operating in China.
Officials from major US companies who attended the event, a scheduled meeting of the local chapter of the US Department of State's Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), voiced concerns about retaliation against American firms and their executives, two people with knowledge of the meeting said.
A number of attendees said their companies were considering restricting non-essential China travel and looking to move meetings outside the country, one of the people added.
Security executives for companies including Walt Disney Co, Alphabet Inc's Google, Facebook Inc, and PayPal Holdings Inc attended the meeting, according to the sources and a LinkedIn posting by one of the attendees.
The companies all declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment prior to publication.
Following publication of this story, Google spokesperson Taj Meadows said in a statement that it “misrepresents” what happened at the meeting. He asserted that there was “no discussion on the record or behind closed doors about the arrest of a top Huawei executive or about American companies operating in China.”
Meadows also said he was not at the meeting and could not say whether attendees discussed China travel informally.
The discussions at the meeting underscore concerns rippling through US businesses in the world's second largest economy, already facing a delicate balancing act amid a tense trade standoff between Washington and Beijing.
The formal agenda for the meeting, held at Google's Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore, included presentations on economic crime and terrorism in the region. OSAC promotes “security cooperation between American private sector interests worldwide and the US Department of State,” according to its website.
But informal conversations among attendees soon turned to possible risks in China prompted by the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer and “heiress” of Chinese telecom network equipment giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, who was detained in Canada on Dec 1. The news of the arrest was made public on Wednesday.