Huawei draws ire after ex-employee wrongly detained for 251 days

Huawei has come under fire on Chinese social media after a former employee of the embattled Chinese telecom giant was for 251 , relating to a company gratuity from last year.

Why it matters: Weibo users expressed anger at Huawei’s treatment of the former employee, undoing some of the firm’s positive sentiment generated online following its US blacklisting.

  • The Shenzhen-based company’s smartphone shipments surged in the past two quarters, which analysts said was driven by patriotic fervor.

Details: Shenzhen authorities detained Li Hongyuan, a former Huawei employee of more than 12 years, last December before his official arrest in January for alleged blackmailing and extortion, according to a procuratorate filing circulating on Chinese social media.

  • Li confirmed to Chinese outlet Jiemian News on Monday the credibility of the file and claimed that he didn’t put it out on purpose.
  • Li resigned from the company in January 2018, but there was an ongoing dispute with the company over his gratuity. In March, a Huawei human resource manager with the last name of Zhou remitted RMB 304,743 ($43,272) to Li via his own bank account, according to the filing.
  • Li walked free in August after the prosecutor decided to drop the case because of “insufficient proof.”
  • On Nov. 20, the procuratorate decided to pay Li compensatory payments totaling RMB 107,522 and send letters to Li’s father’s company and Huawei for vindication purposes.
  • Huawei called the police before the arrest, Li told Jiemian. Law enforcement told him his charge was embezzlement, which later changed to the leaking of trade secrets.
  • In April, a prosecutor told Li that his arrest was for blackmailing and extorting, citing a Huawei HR manager with the last name of He.
  • Li expressed a wish to meet Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei personally to talk about the matter.
  • The news sparked outcry on Weibo, with many users asking Huawei to apologize.
  • The hashtag #HuaweiExEmployee drew 280 million views and 260,000 posts at the time of publication.
  • A Huawei representative declined to comment when contacted by TechNode on Monday.

Context: Chinese tech companies have been drawing the of China’s netizens for their harsh employee treatment this year.

  • Last month, Chinese gaming company NetEase received widespread condemnation on social media for laying off an employee with a serious heart condition who claimed that he was fired without cause.
  • In March, a group of Chinese developers protested online against tech firms’ “996” work schedule, which requires employees to work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week.

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