The alleged threat, made by Chinese ambassador Feng Tie to Faroe Islands leader Bárður Nielsen, adds to concerns about Huawei’s links with the Chinese communist regime as the company pushes for expansion into Europe. The Faroe Islands, which has a population of about 52,000, is a self-governing autonomous region within Denmark.
The United States, which in May blacklisted the Chinese tech giant from doing business with American firms, has sought to convince its allies to bar Huawei from 5G rollouts due to security and espionage risks.
On Nov. 11 Tie had a meeting with Neilsen, during which the ambassador said Beijing would not enter into a free trade agreement with the Faroe Islands if Huawei was not awarded a 5G contract by Føroya Tele, the region’s telecom company.
The alleged threat was revealed after local TV station Kringvarp Føroya on Nov. 15 unintentionally recorded a conversation between Faroe Islands officials discussing the regime’s warning. Despite a court-ordered injunction against publication of the recording, Danish media DR released the audio.
Nielsen allegedly said his government would not interfere with the awarding of the contract.
The Chinese embassy in Denmark has denied the report. In a Dec. 11 tweet, it said, “The Ambassador did not make any threat, nor did he hear any such complaint from the Faroe Islands side.”
The embassy claimed that it wanted “to ensure that Huawei gets fair and indiscriminate treatment in Denmark,” because “the United States openly uses its state power to bully Huawei.”
China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Dec. 11 called the Danish report “wrong and ill-intentioned.”
On Dec. 11, Nielsen told local DR that the ambassador’s comments were a part of a “conversation between the two countries and it is not something that the public needs to know.”
He added, “Neither I nor anyone else in the Faroe Islands, who has spoken to the Chinese ambassador, have felt pressured at any time.”
André Ken Jakobsson, a researcher at the Military Studies Center at the University of Copenhagen, told DR on Dec. 11 that he believed Beijing would continue to impose such conditionalized deals in the future.
“This [Huawei’s 5G contract] is the strongest example so far,” Jakobsson said. “It can be endless if we have trade relationships with Chinese government.”
The tech company has attracted heightened scrutiny over the past year for its links with Chinese military and intelligence agencies, treatment of its employees, alleged theft of competitors’ trade secrets, and alleged breach of U.S. sanctions against Iran.