Brussels, May 7, 2021 – Belgian authorities fear that a huge new logistics hub planned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba could represent an opportunity for Beijing’s intelligence services.

The huge distribution center that is being built outside of Liege Airport will provide the company with a base to serve all of Western Europe and to be part of a global network.

It has been hailed as an economic godsend by officials in the Wallonia region of Belgium, but federal authorities are concerned with increasing diplomatic tensions.

Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne told MPs this week that Chinese law is forcing all private companies – including Alibaba – to cooperate with state intelligence.

“Companies like Alibaba have to open positions within the company for their representatives,” he replied to a question from a parliamentary commission.

“In practice, they could have access to sensitive and secure areas of the airport or Alibaba’s commercial and personal information,” he warned.

The minister said that the Belgian secret service Surete de l’Etat had warned of the dangers of China using economic power as a political lever.

The Chinese government does not always see Alibaba on an equal footing. She was recently fined nearly $ 2.8 billion for abusing her dominant position in her home market.

But Beijing’s relations with Europe and the United States are also at a low level in view of the criticism of its political approach in Hong Kong and the treatment of the Uighur minority.

China recently imposed sanctions and travel bans on eight senior European officials, including a Belgian MP and several Brussels-based representatives of the European Union.

In turn, EU officials have admitted that plans to ratify a China-Europe investment pact agreed only last year have been put on hold while the dispute rages on.

In 2018, Wallonia and Alibaba signed a contract for the company’s cargo arm, Cainiao, to build the distribution center in Liege against competition from other European regions.

The work is in the final stages and regional officials said on Friday that it will be operational by the end of the year.

mad / zap / dc / del / nrh