Chinese Businesses Offer Discounts to Huawei Phone Owners in Solidarity with Exec Detained in Canada

Supporters of Meng Wanzhou stand with a sign outside the British Columbia Supreme Court on December 10, 2018
Photo: Getty Images

Shennong Mountain Scenic Park has become the latest place in China to offer a financial perk to anyone carrying a Huawei phone by waiving the park’s entry fee completely. Why? The park wants to show solidarity with Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Huawei who was arrested in Canada at the direction of the United States earlier this month for allegedly violating sanctions against Iran.

“Use Huawei phones, shoot grand photos on the mountain,” said the park’s WeChat account, according to the English-language news outlet the South China Morning Post. “We wish friends around the world who support Huawei success and bliss.”

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Meng’s arrest was made at the request of the U.S. Justice Department, and President Donald Trump has suggested that he might use Meng as leverage in a future trade deal. Western countries, including those in the so-called Five Eyes spying alliance, are concerned that Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE are too cozy with the Chinese government and are being used to spy on citizens and government officials.

But President Trump’s admission that Meng’s arrest was political, or, at least could be used for political purposes, naturally pissed off a lot of people. China has arrested three Canadian citizens in what’s widely believed to be retaliation for Meng’s arrest.

Meng’s detention has become highly controversial in China, not least because she’s the daughter of Huawei’s billionaire founder, and has spawned plenty of patriotic promotions by private businesses. Meng was released on bail in Canada after her December 1 arrest, but she was required by the court to surrender her passports, to hire private security, and to wear a tracking bracelet, none of which is going down well in China.

Other Chinese companies like Menpad, an LCD-supplier for Huawei, are taking extra steps to punish American companies. Menpad said that it would fine any employees caught using an iPhone.

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At least one bar in Beijing is also offering a discount to anyone who brings in a Huawei phone:

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And a BBQ restaurant in China is reportedly offering a free dish to anyone who’s carrying their Huawei phone:

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But some of the posturing isn’t necessarily going down well with everyone in China, no matter their patriotic leanings. Some claim that because the Shennong Mountain Scenic Park is giving free entry to people with Huawei phones it must be discriminatory. The South China Morning Post (SCMP) even called the local tourism board, which said that they’d received complaints but that they didn’t think it was discriminatory.

“Our expert believes that it isn’t an unfair rule. Because it is a promotional policy, it doesn’t harm other tourists’ benefits,” the tourism official told the SCMP.

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What does the future hold for U.S.-China relations? No one knows for sure. But after President Trump made it clear that Meng’s arrest could be politicized, you’re sure to see plenty of more arrests of both Canadian and possibly American citizens in China. If you’re an American tech exec who’s thinking about going to China, maybe hold off.

[South China Morning Post and BBC]

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Matt Novak

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog