Huawei executive in US set to return to China

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption Wang Xiaohui could leave the US in the next few days A senior Huawei executive will leave the US in the next few days after a year behind bars, …

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption Wang Xiaohui could leave the US in the next few days

A senior Huawei executive will leave the US in the next few days after a year behind bars, U.S. officials have said.

Wang Xiaohui, 50, was detained last year on suspicion of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.

It was one of two China-linked cases that led to the US reducing its use of Huawei equipment for U.S. 5G technology.

The detentions strained relations between Washington and Beijing and Beijing demanded his release.

The State Department said on Sunday it hoped “welcome developments” in the case would allow Mr Wang to return to China “in the near future”.

“We continue to remain in close contact with his family and other Chinese officials as we work towards his return,” it said in a statement.

‘Uphill fight’

Mr Wang’s lawyer had told Reuters news agency in December that his client was being held without access to a lawyer.

Last month, another Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, was detained in Canada and accused of fraud.

In early December, she was released on bail after spending a week in pre-trial detention.

Both Ms Meng and Mr Wang have repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

Chinese authorities say the two cases are separate and that the detention of Ms Meng is intended to stop Huawei allegedly evading sanctions on Iran.

If Huawei is successfully prevented from using 5G technology, it could have significant implications for the company.

Michael Specter, the author of The Phantom Economy: Why States Run the World, told the BBC: “But if Huawei is not allowed to use those 5G systems, it would be devastating to the company.

“Everybody around the world needs access to the latest communications technology – including 5G.

“There are companies working on the ground in the US working for these telecom providers but none of them are necessarily connected to Huawei. Huawei may not benefit directly from it [but] because everyone needs access it [will] suffer.”

‘Important breakthrough’

China’s foreign ministry said it welcomed the decision and thanked U.S officials for “firmly” dealing with the matter.

“If there are no problems in Chinese law or US law, they cannot have differences and prejudices,” Hua Chunying said.

She added that China “hopes that Wang Xiaohui can be sent home soon and does not need to face any more difficulties”.

Mr Wang had worked at Huawei for a decade until March 2018.

Zhang Chunxian, the director of Hong Kong-based Epoch University’s China Centre, told the BBC that he doubted the case would change China’s relations with the US.

“I believe the US may finally step back from such an irrational strategy that has forced US partners and residents to change their mobile carriers and technology suppliers, or even potentially change their political cultures,” he said.

“This is probably going to be an uphill fight, but a breakthrough nonetheless. Let’s see if it serves as a historic lesson.”

Other analysts have said Huawei could now feel increasingly confident in ignoring US restrictions to carry out core business activities.

Achieving full penetration of the U.S. market would also be far harder for Huawei than having to comply with U.S. laws, said Joseph Palamar, a professor at the Yale School of Management.

The BBC’s Global Affairs Editor, Mary Frost, said U.S. officials were likely to distance themselves from the case as Mr Wang’s departure will buy them more time in dealing with the fraught issue.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said his country wanted “professional cooperation” from the US in a range of areas, including technology.

Earlier this month, Mr Wang was granted a place on a list of people who have been allowed to travel to or be granted entry to the US – including Holocaust survivors, Native Americans and environmental activists.

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