Feng Tie, the Chinese ambassador to Denmark, has put pressure on the Faroese government to choose Huawei to provide its 5G network should it want to retain a lucrative export deal for its salmon, reports Berlingske.
Both Berlingske and DR claim they have access to an audio recording produced by the Faroese TV station Kringvarp Føroyas, which was prevented from broadcasting the segment by the Faroese government and faces charges over the matter.
Straightforward and forceful
It is alleged that Ambassador Feng visited the Faroe Islands on November 11 – at which point the Faroese government was involved in final discussions regarding its choice of 5G network provider.
At meetings between the ambassador and various government officials, Feng was reportedly straightforward and forceful. He first met with the Faroese foreign minister, Jenis av Rana, and then later on that same day with the finance minister, Jørgen Niclasen, and the de facto prime minister, Lager Bárður Nielsen.
During the meetings Ambassador Feng reportedly stressed that the selection of Huwaei to build the 5G network would open the door for the Faroe Islands to sign a free trade agreement with China.
Refusal, on the other hand, could result in them losing their salmon deal. According to 2011 figures, China is the sixth biggest importer of Faroese salmon.
Government moves swiftly
News then emerged that Kringvarp Føroya was intending to broadcast a short recording of an incriminating conversation on December 2, which led to the Faroese government taking out an injunction – in case it might cause a diplomatic issue between China and the islands, and also Denmark – just 22 minutes before it was due to run.
The conversation, which is less than 60 seconds long, is reportedly between the Faroese trade minister, Helgi Abrahamsen, and his head of department on November 15.
Kringvarp Føroya claims it accidentally recorded it. There was an interview scheduled on the same day with Abrahamsen on the subject of Huawei at the ministry’s offices. A few minutes before the interview the minister was called by his head of department to shortly join him in the next room whilst wearing a microphone on his jacket.
This past summer the Faroes were warned by Carla Sands, the US ambassador to Denmark, that choosing a Chinese provider for its 5G network could make it vulnerable to spying.
In recent years, Huawei has been accused by the US government of having strong connections to the Chinese government. However, the telecom giant has always insisted it is a private company with no connections to the government.
However, the Faroese telecom company Foroya Tele insists that Sands’ fears are groundless following a satisfactory test of the 5G network provided by Huawei.
Showing its hand, and it’s holding Huawei
Experts claim this is the first time that China has openly showed it is backing Huawei.
“It’s a strong threat,” contended Camilla Nørup Sørensen, a Chinese foreign and security policy expert at Forsvarsakademiet, to Berlingske .
“This is a sign that China is prioritising the Chinese version of 5G and the implementation of Chinese solutions in Europe pretty highly – so highly that they are using Chinese diplomats to try to secure market access.”