Amid a long-running feud with the U.S. government, Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies now has a new embarrassing tidbit to deal with. Reports have begun to emerge that when the company’s CFO, Wanzhou Meng, was arrested in December last year, the tech head was carrying an iPhone 7 Plus, iPad Pro and MacBook Air. In fact, she probably owns more Apple technology than you do.
Meng was arrested by Canadian authorities at the request of the United States amid charges that her company was involved in breaking U.S.-led trade sanctions with Iran. According to court filings issued last week, the wealth of Apple products was seized by Canadian police when Meng was arrested on December 1. Meng was carrying only one Huawei device at the time: a Porsche Design Huawei Mate 20 RS.
The list of Apple equipment seized was listed in court documents as part of a request to extract data from them. The order has been granted by Justice Heather Holmes of the British Columbia Supreme Court, along with a request that the Royal Canadian Mounted gather the data from the devices and provide it to her lawyers.
The legal request includes a bid that the devices be resealed, with two copies of the extracted data plus the devices themselves to be stored in an exhibit locker. The news of Meng’s penchant for Apple surely comes as an embarrassing surprise, especially given Huawei’s strict company policy on its employees using competitors’ devices. In January, it was reported that two employees were severely punished after they used an iPhone to post a message to Huawei’s official Twitter account. The two were subject to demotions and pay cuts after the embarrassing PR gaffe was broadcast on social media for all to see.
The release of Meng’s suite of Apple products has led to many online observers to question why the No. 2 of China’s most powerful technology company seemingly doesn’t trust her own firm’s devices. The questions come amid renewed controversy over the security threats supposedly posed by Huawei hardware to foreign governments and global 5G networks, with Australia and New Zealand already pulling the plug on major telecommunications deals, and the U.S. describing the use of Huawei’s products as a “threat to national security.”
Still, the European Union has ignored American calls for a ban on the use of Huawei’s products, though it has proposed more data-sharing around possible security threats posed by suspicious hardware use. Furthermore, the EU has recently called on member states to carry out risk assessments on their planned 5G networks, in addition to plans to prepare documents outlining how these problems could be solved. The results are set to be compiled into an EU-wide security standards document.
Meng’s arrest has also set of a period of diplomatic tension between China, the US and Canada. In retaliation to Meng’s arrest, China was quick to arrest two Canadian nationals in what seemed to be an act of diplomatic revenge. Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor have been detained in China on allegations of endangering Chinese national security and stealing state secrets.
With the world unsure of how to perceive this rising technology star, Meng’s apparent refusal to carry her own firm’s hardware certainly isn’t a good look, to say the least.
Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR Agency. He recently spoke at Harvard Business School on Crisis PR.