Huawei's treatment of ex-employee sparks fury, debate

Source:Global Times Published: 2019/12/4 0:42:00

Huawei logo File photo: IC

Chinese telecom giant Huawei is facing intense fire on Chinese social media after the company reportedly played a role in sending a former employee to be detained for more than 250 days and failed to quell widespread criticism.

The growing criticism of Huawei, which has won broad support from the Chinese public in its fight against the US crackdown over the past year or so, marks a significant shift in public sentiment toward the company and sparks discussion about the country's ever-growing tech giants' treatment of employees.

Huawei grabbed the spotlight again following news reports that Huawei tipped off the authorities, claiming Li Hongyuan, who worked in the company for 12 years and sought 300,000 yuan ($42,511.68) in severance compensation as he left Huawei in 2018, blackmailed the company, which eventually led to Li's detention by public security departments in Shenzhen for 251 days, according to media reports. In August, Li was acquitted after the procuratorate in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, where Huawei is headquartered, decided to drop the case because of insufficient evidence. 

On November 25, Li was awarded 100,000 yuan in state compensation for his detention and asked Huawei to repair damages to his reputation. Li has also demanded an apology and a meeting with Huawei executives but received no response from the company.

After growing criticism on social media (the topic of Li's demand for an apology from Huawei saw 240 million views on Sina Weibo as of Tuesday night), Huawei on Monday issued a statement, which not only failed to dispel criticism but sparked a new wave of outrage.

"Huawei has the right and also the obligation to report suspected illegal conducts to the judicial authorities based on facts," reads the statement. "If Li Hongyuan thinks his rights and interests have been damaged, we support him to take legal weapons to protect them, including suing Huawei."

Li said that the statement from Huawei was hardly comforting.  "I'm going home now… freedom is now more important than anything," he told the Global Times on Tuesday 

He said that Huawei has not reached Li or his family directly on the matter but declined to comment further.

On Chinese social media the reactions to Huawei's statement was furious, with some calling Huawei unapologetic and arrogant. Others argued that Huawei can treat the case based entirely on laws but it lacks human compassion.

But there is also no shortage of support for Huawei, with some arguing that Huawei did what it had to do to protect its own interests by using legal means and should not bow to public opinion.

"If Huawei bowed to public opinion and apologized, it would send a signal to others that they can also start trouble [for Huawei] to gain more interests. If that happens, thousands leave Huawei each year, can it still operate normally?" Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Beijing-based Information Consumption Alliance, wrote in an article on Tuesday. "If it takes actions in accordance with the law, then it should be bold and straight."

Huawei's case came just days after a similar case involving another Chinese telecom firm NetEase, which also faced heavy criticism after an employee claimed that he got fired after he was terminally ill. 

On Friday, the employee said in a statement reported by several media outlets that he had settled the dispute with the company, which sincerely apologized and offered full support in his treatment.

The back-to-back cases also renewed heated discussion over working conditions at Chinese tech companies, with some questioning the tech world's so-called "996" work hour system, where employees work from 9 am to 9 pm and six days a week.

While some criticized the work schedule, others expressed understanding.  

Global Times 

Posted in: COMPANIES

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