Four European newspapers have investigated Huawei’s internal policies and found evidence that some of them are punishing Chinese employees for marrying Westerners.
The survey was carried out by a consortium called Signals Network. One of its members is the UK Telegraph, which makes headlines: ‘Expatriate Huawei employees who marry Westerners have been forced to leave Europe or be sacked, survey finds’ . He goes on to claim that “marrying a local in Europe is considered informally within the company as an act of treason”.
#Huawei survey by: @SylkeGruhnwald at @RepublikMagazin https://t.co/5nuF6a7oCE@sophieevebarnes at @Telegraph https://t.co/KQ3yCmLy99@pablo_herraiz at @elmundoes https://t.co/21i9pu20Vt@FantaAlexx @DanielLaufer at @netzpolitik_org https://t.co/VzuyJlpEIf
– The Signal Network (@TheSignalsNetw) January 13, 2021
According to the Telegraph, Huawei’s human resources manual states that “Chinese employees who have married Europeans or applied for citizenship must leave Europe ‘as soon as possible”, or be dismissed from the company outright. ” When approached by the Telegraph, a Huawei spokesperson told them that the policy had been dropped, confirming that it was once in place and could have been actively enforced until recently. That said, the spokesperson said the policy had never been implemented in the UK.
Telecoms.com asked Huawei for comment and received the following statement: “Huawei employs people of many nationalities around the world. This includes Chinese expatriate employees working in Europe. It is a policy that benefits employees, the company and the host countries where all parties can work together and exchange views.
“Like many other international companies, there is a rotation process in which expatriate employees are transferred through a number of overseas assignments after a set period usually agreed in advance. This is a very popular system with employees who appreciate the rich mix of experience. At any time, employees are free to discuss their future career development with their local managers and department heads. “
We also know of current Huawei employees whose personal experiences seem to contradict this investigation, including at least one Chinese employee who married an EU citizen and had no interaction with HR about it. That said, the above statement could have gone much further in refuting the allegations made by the investigation if they had no basis.
Spaniard El Mundo took a similar angle to the Telegraph, as far as we can tell from the pay piece. Republik focuses on a few anecdotal accounts, while Netzpolitik speaks of an internal “wolf culture” in which employees are heavily vetted and pushed to their limits. This seems consistent with the nuance added later in the Telegraph’s story that the alleged sanctions only apply if Chinese employees who wish to stay in Europe refuse to leave at Huawei’s request.
It’s hard to know what to make of all of 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 into the narrative that Huawei is in tune with the often repressive and sometimes xenophobic Chinese Communist Party. Thus, they represent an additional reputation challenge for the struggling supplier to try to overcome.