China’s relationship with Huawei has been questioned again as audio appears to show the country’s government using threats to secure a 5G contract.
In a meeting between the Chinese ambassador to Denmark, Feng Tie, and the tiny European state of the Faroe Islands, it was suggested that if Huawei was not given the contract to operate 5G on the islands, then a free trade agreement could fall apart, according to local reports.
Danish newspaper Berlingske reported that audio from this meeting was suppressed by the Faroese government, which sought an injunction on its release. It was reported that the clip was supposed to be released by the Faroese TV station Kringvarp Føroya last week and was blocked just 22 minutes before its broadcast. Berlingske claimed to have heard the clip, which lasts approximately one minute.
Two meetings were allegedly held on 11 November between Feng and the Faroese foreign minister, Jenis av Rana, and later with its prime minister, Bárður Nielsen, and finance minister, Jørgen Niclasen. It’s claimed that Feng told the Faroese government that a free trade deal wouldn’t happen unless the country’s telecoms operator – Føroya Tele – granted Huawei the 5G contract.
The Faroe Islands – a nation of approximately 50,000 people – is a self-governing territory under Denmark and has seen a surge in salmon exports to China in recent years. It is reported that the recording appears to show Nielsen saying that the Faroese government would not interfere with the awarding of the 5G contract.
Berlingske said that the recording also appears to state that the Danish foreign minister had told the Faroese government that the defence ministry recommended not selecting Huawei as its 5G network provider. An injunction was granted for the recording – made during an interview for Kringvarp Føroya on 15 November – because it was believed that it could compromise relations between the Danish Commonwealth and China.
A spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, Hua Chunying, said the Berlingske article was “false and ill-defined”.
“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?” she said.
Huawei said that it has no knowledge of any meeting between Feng and members of the Faroese government.
The news will do little to ease tensions between Huawei and other European nations who have held discussions with the Chinese telecoms giant over the installation of 5G infrastructure. A report published by the European Commission in October pointed criticism towards Huawei over network security fears.