The Straits Times
Published on Jan 17, 2013

Crouching guard, hidden danger for China security firms


BEIJING (AFP) - In sub-zero winter cold, trainees at an army base outside Beijing wake before dawn to practise martial arts and evasive driving, while a Portuguese ex-special forces soldier barks commands.

"We are not polite any more... we are only efficient," declares Mr Marco Borges - his words rapidly translated into Chinese - before slapping several of his charges in the face, to giggles from the other students.

But despite their dark uniforms and heavy black boots these are not the latest recruits to some new unit of China's People's Liberation Army.

Instead the roughly 40-strong group - mostly with previous military experience - are on a commercial training course to become elite bodyguards protecting Chinese firms as they seek ever more resources and contracts in some of the world's most unstable regions.