Alibaba’s European hub raises espionage concerns in Belgium


Belgium’s Minister of Justice Vincent van Quickenborn has expressed concern about China’s e-commerce activity in connection with the distribution center of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba, which is under construction at Liege Airport in Belgium.

Liege Airport is the seventh largest airport in Europe. Located in the heart of the Golden Triangle in Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt, it is one of the most densely populated production areas in Europe.

In December 2018, Alibaba Group and the Belgian government signed an agreement to open Alibaba’s first Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) in Europe. Alibaba Group and Liege Airport’s logistics department have also signed a contract to lease an area of ​​220,000 square meters to build a logistics hub at the airport, which has become a concern.

Intelligence concerns

“China’s intelligence may have access to a sensitive and secure area of ​​the airport,” Minister Van Quickenborn told parliamentarians on May 6.

Van Quickenborne referred to a 2017 Chinese law requiring all private companies to work with the State Intelligence Service. “Alibaba must comply with China’s security mechanism if the latter desires access to potentially sensitive commercial and personal data held by Alibaba in the context of its activities in Liege.” Added Van Quickenborn.

The live demonstration is at the Horizon Robotics Exhibition at the Las Vegas Convention Center during CES 2019 in Las Vegas, using artificial intelligence and facial recognition with the spatial and temporal technology of a dense crowd.
Live with artificial intelligence and face recognition at the exhibition of Chinese chip maker Horizon Robotics at the Las Vegas Convention Center during CES 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 10, 2019. Demonstrations are used in the space-time technology of crowded crowds. AFP / Getty Images)

“This interest is not limited to intelligence and security purposes, but can be seen within a broader political and economic framework,” said Van Quickenborn.

Alibaba Group’s Electronic World Trade Platform

To achieve global dominance in e-commerce, Alibaba “promotes public-private partnerships to improve the business environment and cross-border eTrade in several key areas, including the simplification and harmonization of regulations and standards. Will establish a platform to incubate future rules of eWTP, according to the eWTP website

In mid-2018, the company announced plans to enhance its global logistics capabilities by opening five logistics hubs in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The Liege hub was the first hub.

As part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the eWTP project in Liege has brought tremendous economic progress to the region, according to a report by China’s state media Xinhua. Direct freight and train routes were planned between Liege Airport and at least eight major cities in China. The report also states that the Liege hub will create 900 direct and 3,000 indirect jobs in the region.

Local opposition

However, Watching Alibaba, a local group that opposes the Liege hub, said on their website, “The number of jobs created is very uncertain and they are low-grade jobs (unstable and advanced). Controlled by night jobs, etc.) and will be destroyed. Other jobs, other economic sectors. “

This group opposes the very form of e-commerce that Alibaba is building. Produced under dubious conditions. For each job created in the field of e-commerce, two or three are lost in traditional commerce. “

In addition, Watching Alibaba is not happy with the decision to build a hub at Liege Airport. Because it was done “without information with the public and without an independent and comprehensive impact assessment.”

Businesses facing domestic and international challenges in China

In pursuit of global expansion, Chinese retail and tech giants face challenges from their employees. Some of the challenges are caused by labor law disputes, while others are caused by the labor culture of “996”. The “996” culture promoted by Alibaba and makes it standard to work six days a week from 9 am to 9 pm.

A 22-year-old employee of the e-commerce platform Pinduoduo died in December 2020. A former delivery driver of Alibaba’s subsidiary partner set fire after a wage dispute in January.

In recent months, Alibaba founder Jack Ma has lost support from the Chinese government, and Alibaba has been fined $ 2.8 billion by Beijing for antitrust violations.

In addition, after seven years of negotiations, the European Union Commission suspended the EU-China trade agreement (a comprehensive investment agreement) signed in December in May. This happened after both sides exchanged sanctions in response to growing tensions over human rights issues in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

The Epoch Times
On January 17, 2020, on the streets of Liege, Belgium, a group of protesters claiming to be “looking at Alibaba” are protesting the arrival of the online web shop Alibaba in the Liege region. (Getty Images via Thomas Michiels / Belgium Mag / AFP)

Chinese government responds to espionage concerns

In response to concerns about the Belgian government’s espionage, the Chinese government played hardball and softball at the same time.

The day after the Belgian minister expressed concern about the possibility of China’s espionage, the Belgian embassy said the concern was “unfounded” and “strong dissatisfaction and decisiveness with this practice of defaming the Chinese. I express my opposition. The accused company. “

The Chinese Ambassador to Belgium met with the head of Alibaba Group’s Globalization Office. Alibaba has submitted a progress report to the Chinese Ambassador on the eWTP and Liege Hub Project.

The ambassador told Alibaba Group, “On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Belgium, we will steadily proceed with cooperation projects, deepen business cooperation between China and the EU in the e-commerce industry, and raise the level of cooperation between China and Belgium. “

Alibaba’s Liege Airport hub is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2021. The Epoch Times asks Alibaba Group for comment.