Danish media are reporting that the Chinese government threatened to cancel a trade deal with the tiny Faeroe Islands if the country does not agree to use internet networks supplied by Chinese tech company Huawei.
Huawei is at the center of a global cybersecurity debate, with the U.S. pushing allies in Europe and elsewhere to avoid the company over fears it could allow the Chinese government to snoop on consumers. Huawei denies that.
It’s part of a broader global battle between China and the U.S. over trade and technological supremacy, and control over the market for new, superfast 5G wireless equipment is considered key.
Danish media cited an audio recording made Nov. 15 by the local broadcaster as it prepared to interview the islands’ trade minister. The hot mic recording picked up a private conversation between the minister, Helgi Abrahamsen, and his aide.
In it, the aide allegedly explains to the minister how the Chinese ambassador, Feng Tie, had in a meeting four days earlier threatened to pull a trade deal if the Faeroe telecoms operator did not choose Huawei to build its 5G mobile network.
The Faeroe broadcaster had planned to broadcast the audio but a local court quickly issued an injunction – requested by the Faeroe government. The injunction banned the airing of the recording, claiming it might damage relations between China and the country, a tiny nation of barely 50,000 people that is part of Denmark but enjoys broad autonomy.
In Denmark, broadcaster DR and daily Berlingske reported Tuesday about the case. DR said it “is familiar with the contents of the audio file,” but declined to specify whether it had heard it directly. Berlingske could not be immediately reached for more information.
Bardur Nielsen, the Faeroe Islands’ premier who attended the Nov. 11 meeting with the Chinese ambassador, has said he will not discuss the case. The Chinese embassy could not be reached for comment.
China’s state-run paper Global Times cited the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, as saying that the claims “are completely false and have ulterior motives.”
Huawei, the world’s biggest maker of mobile network gear, said it “was not aware of any meeting between the Chinese ambassador and Faeroese politicians in November as reported.”
On Tuesday, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said it was up to the Faeroe Islands, located midway between Scotland and Iceland, to decide who should provide the 5G network but they are welcome to seek advice in Denmark.