China’s ambassador to Denmark threatened to scupper a trade deal with the Faroe Islands if Huawei was not given a 5G contract in the region, according to Danish newspaper Berlingske.
The alleged threat by ambassador Feng Tie, made to Faroe Islands politicians including leader Bárður Nielsen, heightened concerns about the Chinese communications firm’s links with the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as it seeks European expansion.
The US, having sanctioned Huawei due to concerns about espionage and security, is attempting to convince allies to follow suit. The Faroe Islands, which have a population of around 50,000, is a self-governing autonomous region of Denmark.
On 11 November Mr Feng allegedly told Faroe Islands government figures that China would not enter a free trade deal with them unless Huawei was given a 5G contract by Føroya Tele, a Faroe Islands telecoms operator. The threat was reported after Faroe Islands politicians were recorded by the Kringvarp Føroya TV station on 15 November, discussing the ambassador’s warning.
Mr Nielsen reportedly said that his government would not interfere in the awarding of the contract. A Faroe Islands judge granted an injunction against Kringvarp Føroya reporting the ambassador's alleged threat, saying it could compromise relations between the Danish Commonwealth and Beijing, before Berlingke revealed it.
Huawei, which plans to roll out 5G in 2020, said it had no knowledge of the alleged meetings. Faroe Islands government spokespeople did not respond to calls and messages requesting comment.
The Chinese communications giant is embroiled in controversy about its alleged closeness to the CCP, treatment of employees, data privacy and alleged sanction breaching. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested that he is likely to ban Huawei from Britain's 5G network.
Luke Patey, senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies, told The Telegraph: “China is now brandishing economic sticks of its own for when European countries do not take on Huawei for 5G networks. This was a peek into what is likely a broad effort on China's part to pressure and persuade European officials to its side. It’s time for European leaders to call Beijing out on its interference.”
On Wednesday China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying called Berlingke’s report “false and ill-intentioned”.
She said of the alleged meeting: “Is there any difference and meaning on whether they mentioned Huawei or not? If US officials can slander China’s Huawei all over the world, can’t a Chinese ambassador mention the name of a Chinese company when talking about cooperation with local officials?”
Tom Jensen, Berlingske’s editor-in-chief, said: “We stand by the story and we have proper documentation for what we write.”