BEIJING — Chinese technology giant Huawei has fired the Chinese employee arrested in Poland on suspicion of espionage, saying that he had brought the company “into disrepute.”
The man’s arrest Friday comes amid mounting concerns across the world that Huawei, the world’s largest maker of telecommunications equipment, might be acting on behalf of the Chinese government to spy on people and governments. Huawei denies the claims.
Wang Weijing, a fluent Polish speaker who also goes by the name Stanislaw Wang, worked at the Chinese Consulate in the Polish city of Gdansk in 2006. But he had worked as Huawei’s sales director in Poland since 2011, according to Polish state television.
Wang was detained on suspicion of spying, along with a Polish citizen who once worked for a Polish intelligence agency but is employed by European cellular carrier Orange. Both men have denied the charges, which carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison.
Shenzhen-based Huawei is trying to distance itself from Wang.
“Huawei has decided to terminate the employment of Mr. Wang Weijing, who was arrested on suspicion of breaking Polish law. His alleged actions have no relation to the company,” Huawei said in a statement Saturday.
“In accordance with the terms and conditions of Huawei’s labor contract, we have made this decision because the incident in question has brought Huawei into disrepute,” it said.
Huawei complies with all applicable laws and regulations in the countries where it operates, and “we require every employee to abide by the laws and regulations in the countries where they are based,” it said.
Wang’s arrest comes amid growing concerns about Huawei, which has been vying to build 5G high-speed cellular networks around the world. Countries including the United States, Britain, Japan, Australia and New Zealand had already moved to block Huawei technology because of security fears.
This week, Norway also said it was considering excluding Huawei from building the 5G network there because of espionage fears. “We share the same concerns as the United States and Britain, and that is espionage on private and state actors,” Norway’s justice minister, Tor Mikkel Wara, told Reuters.
Huawei has denied being involved in any such activities and pointed to a lack of evidence to support the suspicions.
Poland has been more open than many other countries to using Huawei technology. Its government last year said it would collaborate with the company to build a 5G network for the country.
Huawei’s willingness to cut the man loose stood in contrast to the “grave concerns” that China’s Foreign Ministry voiced over the incident. Beijing urged Poland “to protect the lawful rights of the Chinese detainee,” a spokesman said.
The Chinese Embassy in Warsaw had asked the Polish Foreign Ministry for details of the allegations and for consular access as soon as possible, it said.
The state-affiliated Global Times on Saturday accused the Polish government of trying to curry favor with the Trump administration with the arrest. The Chinese tabloid also warned that the case could hurt ties between Poland and China.
“If Poland wants to damage ties with China over the Huawei case, which is obviously groundless, it will be the biggest loser,” Zhao Junjie, a research fellow for the Institute of European Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was quoted as saying. China has the upper hand in their trading relationship, Zhao said, according to the Global Times, suggesting that China could retaliate against Polish companies.
The concerns about Huawei’s possible involvement in Chinese espionage come amid a battle over Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of the company’s founder.
She was arrested in Canada last month on U.S. charges linked to allegations that Huawei committed fraud by violating U.S. export and sanctions laws related to Iran. She is out on bail in Vancouver before a possible battle over extradition.
Ten days after Meng was arrested, China arrested two Canadian men and charged them with endangering national security. The two men, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, have been held for more than a month without access to lawyers or family members.