INTERNATIONAL – Huawei Technologies cut loose a sales director arrested in Poland on suspicion of espionage, moving swiftly to distance itself from a case that may crystallize fears the telecoms giant helps Beijing spy on Western governments.
China’s largest technology company fired Wang Weijing, who was responsible for sales to public sector clients, saying the incident has brought Huawei “into disrepute,” without elaborating. The smartphone maker, which has repeatedly denied charges of espionage itself, took action before judges had time to hear the defendant’s plea.
Huawei, which generates more revenue than Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. combined, has become a target of intensifying scrutiny across Western countries from the US to Australia and New Zealand. Several carriers are now shunning its equipment over concerns the products may leave a backdoor for Chinese intelligence agencies. Huawei’s rejected all such accusations, saying its products are safe.
The Poland arrest could have "a very significant impact" on Huawei’s business as Europe is a key revenue contributor for Huawei, said Brock Silvers, managing director of Kaiyuan Capital, which holds no investment in Huawei. "Regardless of how the allegations against Wang are ultimately resolved, it seems likely that Huawei’s important European business will suffer in 2019."
The arrest comes as Huawei becomes a lightning rod for America’s fears about China’s economic and technological ascendancy. Polish authorities detained Wang and a former high-ranking official with Poland’s Internal Security Agency who also worked at mobile carrier Orange Polska SA. Evidence shows both men conducted espionage against the country, Stanislaw Zaryn, a spokesman for Poland’s secret services chief, said in a statement.