Huawei has come under fire on Chinese social media after a former employee of the embattled Chinese telecom giant was wrongly detained for 251 days, relating to severance pay from last year.
Why it matters: Weibo users expressed anger at Huawei’s treatment of the former employee, reversing 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- Li confirmed to Chinese outlet Jiemian News (link no longer active) on Monday the credibility of the file and claimed that he didn’t put it out on purpose.
- 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.
- January 2018: Li resigned from the company but there was an ongoing dispute over his severance pay.
- March 2018: A Huawei human resource (HR) manager surnamed Zhou remitted RMB 304,743 ($43,272) to Li via his own bank account, according to the filing.
- December 2018: Li was detained by Shenzhen police. Huawei reported the case beforehand, according to Li. Law enforcement told him his charge was embezzlement, which later changed to the leaking of trade secrets.
- January 2019: Li was officially arrested under orders from the Shenzhen procuratorate.
- April 2019: A prosecutor told Li his arrest was for blackmail and extortion, citing a Huawei HR manager surnamed He.
- August 2019: Li walked free after the prosecutors dropped the case due to “insufficient proof.”
- November 2019: 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.
- December 2019: The procuratorate filing circulated on social media.
Context: Chinese tech companies have been drawing the ire 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.
Note: This article has been updated to provide clarity on the timeline of events.