Ex-BBC news head joins Huawei as Chinese telecoms giant seeks to boost image after ‘espionage’ bans

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The Chinese government has intervened many times on Huawei’s behalf, most notably in a recent prisoner swap regarding its CFO, Meng Wanzhou - Jesse Winter/Reuters
The Chinese government has intervened many times on Huawei’s behalf, most notably in a recent prisoner swap regarding its CFO, Meng Wanzhou - Jesse Winter/Reuters

A former senior BBC News executive, Gavin Allen, has joined Chinese telecoms Huawei as the firm battles regulatory hurdles in the UK and seeks to boost its image after its chief financial officer admitted wrongdoing in a major fraud case.

Mr Allen, most recently head of news programmes at the BBC, posted on LinkedIn saying he was “delighted” to be joining the Chinese company as "Executive Editor in Chief", without specifying his responsibilities in the new role.

The UK government has banned British telecoms firms from buying equipment from Huawei, ordering them to strip their networks of the Chinese company’s kit by 2027 over security and espionage concerns.

Countries including the US, Australia, Sweden, and Japan have instituted similar bans against using Huawei gear, including for 5G networks. Canada is expected to issue a decision in the next few weeks.

Other nations have not taken a public stance though have chosen to work with rivals Nokia and Ericsson instead.

Huawei has spent millions of dollars on public relations and lobbying efforts, with founder Ren Zhengfei saying recently that the firm would focus more on foreign hires. Journalists, including those who have been based in China before, are also regularly approached by Huawei with lucrative offers to join their global PR team.

Huawei has been embroiled in major diplomatic spats. Western governments have for years expressed concerns that the firm would pose a security risk given its apparent close ties to the Chinese government.

The Chinese government has also intervened many times on Huawei’s behalf, most notably in a recent prisoner swap regarding its CFO, Meng Wanzhou.

Ms Meng was arrested in Vancouver in 2018 on a US extradition request to face fraud charges linked to Washington’s sanctions against Iran.

Within days, two Canadians – Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig – were detained by Chinese authorities, later alleging espionage charges.

Western governments accused China of hostage diplomacy and arbitrarily detaining the two men, who were tried in secret.

Developments in Ms Meng’s case were followed closely by moves against the “two Michaels,” as the pair came to be known.

After she recently reached a deal with US prosecutors and admitted wrongdoing, Ms Meng was allowed to return home to China about a week ago.

Beijing then promptly released the two Michaels after 1,020 days in detention, a move that experts say made clear that the Chinese government had purposefully used the detentions to squeeze Ottawa.

Huawei confirmed Mr Allen's hire to The Telegraph. The BBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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