It is career limiting to work for Huawei. Here are 10 examples of reputational risks to consider when working for the company in 2022
I am often asked how I view people who work or have worked for Huawei. My answer is very simple, it depends on where in the world you work, what you do and whether you have worked for Huawei in the period after December 2018. In practical terms, you can’t give an unequivocal answer to the question the other way around, so you can look at how many key people in and around Huawei have reacted to things related to Huawei and China.
Today’s China is not the same it was 10 years ago. General Secretary Xi Jinping oversees the use of Huawei’s technology to systematically oppress large populations. Moreover, China has chosen to strengthen its cooperation with Putin’s Russia, and its cooperation has only strengthened with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the exit of firms from democratic countries.
It is not possible to separate Huawei’s business from the Chinese state, its autocratic leaders, and the tools and practices China uses to attack foreign companies and nations. Huawei’s employees must live with the fact that they direct or indirectly enable human rights violations in China and in where Huawei does business.
Employees and contractees should consider the following examples which demonstrate the personal, ethical, and reputational risks involved in working for Huawei.
- The award-winning Tommy Zwicky’s career as head of Communication at Huawei lasted 7 months. In 2020 he left the company after the Washington Post revealed that Huawei developed and tested facial recognition technology to target Uighur Muslims. Few month before that happened Zwickly published a defense of Huawei: Communications manager: Huawei is made the villain, and now we are experiencing direct harassment to which I replied Telecommunications analyst to Huawei employee: I understand that you want to attack my credibility. In subsequent interviews, Zwicky described that he could not defend the company.
- When it recently emerged that Huawei, unlike their competitors, chose to stay in Russia and not condemn what is happening in Ukraine, the two remaining Britons on Huawei UK’s board of directors Sir Andrew Cahn and Sir Ken Olisa resigned. It came after Sir Mike Rake, the former chairman of BT Group, had resigned as chairman of Huawei’s UK business in 2021 and after Lord John Browne of Madingley, the former BP chief, had resigned as UK chairman of Huawei Technologies in 2020.
- In August 2020 Swedish singer Zara Larsson declared her support for the Uighur Muslim and ended her collaboration with Huawei. When she chose to criticize China’s behavior in the region, Apple Music in China removed her music from their store.
- In December 2020 French football star Antoine Griezmann ended his sponsorship deal with Huawei after claims that the Chinese telecoms firm was involved in the surveillance of Muslim Uighurs.
- Following Huawei’s continued support for Russia in the invasion of Ukraine in March 2022, football player Robert Lewandowski from Bayern Munich terminated his contract with Huawei which was said to be worth around $5.2M per year.
- Many Huawei employees claim that they are assured to have freedom of speech in working for the company. Dr. Yao Wenbing, Vice President Business Development and Partnerships; Victor Zhang, Vice President and Chief Representative; and Mr. Jeremy Thompson, Vice President, (all of Huawei UK) said they had freedom of speech suddenly vanished on the question of Hong Kong. See the UK Parliament at 9 minutes and 36 seconds in the hearing.
- Huawei US’ Vice President for Risk Management & Partner Relations Tim Danks wanted to engage with Strand Consult until I suggested that we conduct the dialogue in writing and provide it to the press in full. Apparently, it is conversation with content that he could not endure to be public. Tim Danks later left Huawei.
- In the highly choreographed release and return of Huawei Deputy Chairwoman, Rotating Chairwoman, and CFO Meng Wanzhou to China after three years of house arrest Canada for corporate fraud, Wanzhous said, (see translation here), “As an ordinary Chinese citizen who had suffered this plight and been stranded overseas for nearly three years, there was never a moment when I did not feel the care and warmth of the Party, the motherland and the people,” Huawei press staff must defend this praise to China.
- As an employee of Huawei, one must also consider what role Huawei plays in relation to the over 100,000 state Chinese hackers who attack the Western world and Western companies on a daily basis? Right now, there is some evidence that Huawei has helped Putin and the Russian hackers attack Putin’s opponents. I don’t know if you’ve read this article: Chinese telecoms giant Huawei has been helping Vladimir Putin’s efforts to stabilise Russia’s internet network after cyber attacks, reports reveal
- Strand Consult has tried several times to conduct a public dialogue with Huawei. The best we could get was the answer from Jakub Hera Adamowicz at Huawei Poland in Warsaw who in a clarifying response in relation to a statement by Huawei founder Mr Ren Zhengfei, “When Mr. Ren speaks, Huawei spokespeople listen. We do not have anything to add to what Mr. Ren said.”
Strand Consult’s job is not to fight Huawei but to create transparency. Strand Consult makes a living by helping operators distinguish between fact and fiction in the media, including parsing Huawei’s corporate communication. Huawei spent a huge amount of money marketing a story that it was an innocent victim of a mad American president.
Not only is Huawei closely aligned with the Chinese government, it has strong relations with Vladimir Putin. Here are two questions for people working at Huawei, why hasn’t Huawei left Russia, as its Western competitors have done, and what are Huawei’s views on Putin’s invasion of Ukraine?