China’s embassy in Belgium has hit out at what it calls “baseless allegations” by a Belgian minister that a logistics hub in the country operated by Alibaba Group Holding could be used by Chinese spies for access to sensitive intelligence. The hub at the Liege Airport in eastern Belgium near the city of Maastricht is one of six global logistics centres that enables the world’s largest e-commerce platform to deliver products anywhere within 72 hours. Operated by Alibaba’s Cainiao logistics unit , the Liege hub may allow access to “sensitive areas”of the air terminal to Chinese intelligence services, Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said on May 5 before a parliamentary committee, according to a May 7 report by the CE Noticias Financieras . Laws in China “force all [the country’s] companies to cooperate with intelligence agencies,” Quickenborne said, adding that Chinese agents “could have access to sensitive and secure areas of the airport or to commercial and personal data in Alibaba’s possession. Companies like Alibaba are required to open positions within the company to their agents.” The comment, made without evidence, underscores a rising tide of concerns among some Western governments about the growing clout of China’s government and companies. Alibaba, one of China’s largest home-grown companies and the largest operator of online shopping services, is also one of the most prominent icons of that global presence. The Chinese embassy in Belgium refuted the media reports on May 7, slamming them for making “baseless allegations.” China’s government does not “demand Chinese enterprises to engage in activities that breach local laws or regulations,” the embassy said in a statement. “China never presents a threat to Belgium,” the embassy said. “The cooperation between the two nations is built on the foundation of mutual respect, mutual benefits and win-win relationship.” Liege, still under construction and scheduled to be fully operational at the end of 2021, is the Western Europe linchpin of Alibaba’s global network of logistics centres, known as the electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP). It was the staging point for the delivery last year of 2 million masks and other personal protection equipment (PPE) donated by the Jack Ma Foundation to Europe. European countries that received donations from Ma – the founder of Alibaba – include Italy, Belgium, Spain, Slovenia, France, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Portugal, Montenegro and the UK. Alibaba owns South China Morning Post . A March 2020 donation of 800 ventilators, 300,000 sets of protective clothing and 300,000 face shields to hospitals in Europe also went through Liege. During the coronavirus pandemic, Alibaba worked with Belgium authorities to digitise the customs clearance procedures to facilitate Cainiao’s plan to increased the number of chartered cargo flights to five per week. Alibaba and Belgium established the first eWTP hub in Europe in 2018 . The hub’s significance was marked by the visit in July 2020 by King Philippe of Belgium to Liege to thank the airport’s staff and Alibaba for their efficient distribution of medical supplies to Belgium and across Europe during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the vital role of logistics in supporting Europe’s economic recovery. The king expressed his appreciation for the efficient distribution and logistics capabilities of Alibaba’s eWTP hub and Liege Airport, according to a press release. “The Alibaba Foundation and the Jack Ma Foundation were able to activate this logistics network quickly and efficiently at the beginning of the crisis to deliver urgently needed donations of PPE,” said Michel Kempeneers, chief operating officer of the Overseas Export-Investment at Belgium’s Wallonia regional export investment agency in 2020, adding it was a determining factor in World Health Organization’s choice to place Liege on the map of the world’s emergency relief hubs.