Huawei says worker freed, compensated for ‘suffering’

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A Huawei logo is displayed at a retail store. AFP

Chinese technology giant Huawei has responded to public outcry after it was accused of detaining an employee from its Shenzen office for 251 days on suspicion of extortion.

The company said on Monday that Li Hongyuan – who worked at Huawei for 12 years and had asked for more than $40,000 in severance compensation and was sued by the company for extortion – has been released and received $42,611 from the state.

A few days ago, Li’s experience was posted online and set the internet buzzing in a rare show of outcry against the Chinese company.

In an open letter addressed to Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, quoted by the Guardian, Li wrote: “It wasn’t my intention to cause so much attention online and I am sorry about it. Also, I don’t regret my choice for speaking the truth. There is always a cost to being honest.”

In response, Huawei said the company has the right and obligation to report suspected illegal activities based on the facts to judicial authorities, adding that the company respects decisions from the judicial authorities, including the public security organ, procuratorate and court.

“If Li Hongyuan believes his rights have been impaired, the company supports his use of legal means to defend his rights, including suing Huawei; that reflects the spirit of the law that everyone is equal before the law,” a Huawei statement said.

Li joined Huawei in 2005 and left in January last year. After negotiation, the company agreed to pay Li some $47,000 in severance pay. Huawei claimed Li received the money from a secretary who worked alongside him in his department in March last year.

He was detained on December 16 last year by the Shenzhen Municipal Public Security Bureau on suspicion of extortion, and was arrested on January 22 following a report from his former department manager.

On August 23, Li was acquitted when the Shenzhen Longgang district people’s procuratorate decided not to prosecute him due to unclear facts and insufficient evidence.

On October 24, Li asked the Shenzhen Longgang district people’s procuratorate to remove the influence, rehabilitate the reputation, and make an apology, as well as pay compensation of some $11,000 in personal liberty damages and around $7,000 in emotional damages, based on the grounds of “insufficient evidence for arrest, and then stopping the investigation for criminal responsibility”.

On November 25, Chinese courts ruled to award Li $11,000 for personal liberty damages and $4,000 for emotional damages.