For over a year now, Huawei, the world’s largest maker of telecommunications equipment and a leading smartphone brand, has been the target of an intense clampdown by the Trump administration. The Justice Department has charged Huawei with stealing trade secrets and lying about its business in Iran. The company denies wrongdoing. American officials say Huawei answers to the Chinese state, which the company also denies.
But even if Huawei is not government controlled, Chinese officials often defend it as if it were a strategically vital state asset.On Dec. 11, the larger WeChat group was discussing Huawei’s political troubles when someone in the group brought up Iran, screenshots of the messages show.
“I worked on Irancell projects from 2012 to 2014,” the person wrote, referring to an Iranian telecom operator. “I went on business trips.”
“I can also confirm,” Mr. Li replied. “Internally, it’s an open secret that Huawei sells to Iran.”The police arrested Mr. Li on Dec. 16, according to a document from Shenzhen prosecutors. He was initially accused of leaking trade secrets, he said. Mr. Zeng said he was arrested two weeks later on the same accusation.After Mr. Zeng had spent a few weeks in detention, the police changed the accusation against him to fraud, he said. He denied wrongdoing, and in March 2019, he was released. But he said the police had first made him write a statement promising that he would not publicly go against Huawei’s company line on Iran or be manipulated by foreign forces with ulterior motives, a reference to the international news media.
The accusation against Mr. Li ended up being extortion. He was freed in August with no charges.Droll understatement of the day.“China is still some distance away from having rule of law,” he said.