Chinese firms ask workers to shun iPhones, buy Huawei devices

Chinese companies are said to be banding together in a show of solidarity towards telecommunications firm Huawei Technology Co. Ltd. by encouraging their employees to buy its smartphones and other devices.

In some cases, the show of support is going even further, with reports that employees are also being discouraged from buying products from rival firm Apple Inc. Nikkei Asian Review reported today that some of the companies are also pledging to step up their purchases of Huawei’s other products, such as its business management systems.

The wave of solidarity is apparently in response to the recent arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, who was nabbed in Canada during a stopover between flights. The CFO was reportedly arrested at the request of the U.S. government, which wants to extradite her on charges that she violated sanctions against Iran.

The timing of Meng’s arrest was notable because it came during the ongoing trade dispute between China and the U.S., caused by President Donald Trump’s decision to apply tariffs on $200 billion worth of imported Chinese goods.

Huawei’s troubles go beyond Meng’s arrest, however. The U.S. government has banned its agencies from buying Huawei products and is encouragingallied governments to do the same. To date, Australia, France, New Zealand and Japan have all banned or are considering a ban on Huawei’s products.

The reason for the ban is that Huawei’s products have been deemed a security risk due to the firm’s close ties with the Beijing government. The concern is that its products could have been installed with a “backdoors” that would allow China to spy on other nations. Huawei denies the claims.

In what looks to be a coordinated response, a number of Chinese firms are said to be offering to subsidize the cost of Huawei-branded smartphones by up to 20 percent, while others are said to be willing to cover the entire cost of the devices.

For instance, Shanghai Youluoke Electronic and Technology is offering to provide two free Huawei smartphones to each of its employees. Another firm, Shenzhen Yidaheng Technology, is said to be subsidizing the cost of devices from Huawei and a second Chinese company, ZTE Corp., by up to 18 percent. Meanwhile, Fuchun Technology is reimbursing its employees with 500 yuan ($72.50) each if they can prove they’ve purchased a Huawei smartphone.

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An even sweeter deal, perhaps, is being made by a brewery in Henan province, which is said to be offering free alcohol worth 30 percent of the purchase price of any Huawei device its employees buy.

There is a more sinister side to the Chinese firm’s unwavering support, with some reportedly also pushing staff to boycott products from Apple. Nikkei Asian Review says that one machinery manufacturer in Shenzhen is threatening to confiscate Apple devices from its workers and fire those who refuse to hand over their devices. A second company, Shenzhen Yidaheng Technology, is reportedly fining workers who purchase iPhones.

The reports cannot be confirmed, but Chinese consumers do have a history of boycotting companies from countries that have fallen out with their government. During the 2012 protests over China’s dispute with Japan over the Senkaku Islands, there was a mass boycott of Japanese car manufacturers for example. South Korean firms such as Hyundai Group and Lotte Corp. have also been subject to recent boycotts because of that country’s military alliance with the U.S.

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