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International investigation alleges anti-Western discrimination within Huawei

Four European newspapers have investigated Huawei’s internal policies and found evidence that some of them punish Chinese employees for marrying Westerners.

Scott Bicheno

January 13, 2021

3 Min Read
International investigation alleges anti-Western discrimination within Huawei

Four European newspapers have investigated Huawei’s internal policies and found evidence that some of them punish Chinese employees for marrying Westerners.

The investigation was carried out by a consortium called the Signals Network. One of its members is the UK Telegraph, which headlines its account of the findings: ‘Huawei expat employees that marry westerners faced being forced to leave Europe or be sacked, investigation reveals’. It goes on to allege that ‘marrying a local in Europe is informally viewed within the company as an act of betrayal’.

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According to the Telegraph, Huawei’s HR handbook states that ‘Chinese employees who have married Europeans or applied for citizenship must leave Europe “as soon as possible”, or be sacked from the company altogether.’ When approached by the Telegraph a Huawei spokesperson told them the policy has been dropped, thus confirming it was once in place and could have been actively enforced until recently. Having said that, the spokesperson indicated the policy was never implemented in the UK.

Telecoms.com asked Huawei for comment and received the following statement: “Huawei has employees of many nationalities working around the world. This includes Chinese expatriate employees working in Europe. It is a policy that is beneficial to the employees, the company and to the host countries where all sides can work together and exchange views.

“In line with many other international companies, there is a process of rotation in which expat employees are moved through a number of overseas assignments after a set time typically agreed in advance. This is a system which is very popular with employees who value the rich mix of experience.  At all times, employees are free to discuss their future career moves with their local managers and department heads.”

We also know of current Huawei employees whose personal experiences appear to contradict this investigation, including at least one Chinese employee who married an EU citizen and has had no interaction with HR on the matter. Having said that, the above statement could have gone a lot further in refuting the claims made by the investigation if there’s no substance to them.

Spain’s El Mundo went with a similar angle to the Telegraph, as far as we can tell from the paywalled piece. Republik focuses on a couple of anecdotal accounts, while Netzpolitik talks of an internal ‘wolf culture’ in which employees are heavily controlled and pushed to their limits. This seems consistent with the nuance added further down the Telegraph story that says the alleged sanctions only apply if Chinese employees who want to stay in Europe refuse to leave when demanded by Huawei.

It’s hard to know what to make of all this. Chinese and Western European cultures obviously have their differences and Huawei is free to implement its own policies as it sees fit. But stories like this feed the narrative of Huawei being in lock-step with the often repressive and, at times, xenophobic Chinese Communist Party. Thus they represent an additional reputational challenge for the embattled vendor to try to overcome.

About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of Telecoms.com, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Telecoms.com Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Telecoms.com Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

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