Huawei apparently decided that one way to address the controversy over its alleged links with the Chinese government was to run a poll on its official Twitter account, asking people who they think owns Huawei. The poll started Friday and got 56,790 votes before it closed down.
"Who do you think owns Huawei? #WhoRunsHuawei," the Chinese phone manufacturer wrote.
"The government" was the top choice at 42%, "employees" were at 26%, "financial institutions" got 17% of the vote and "consortiums" got 15%.
A similar poll on Facebook yielded a different result: 77% voted for "employees" and 23% said "the government." Its Facebook page also pointed toward a website detailing its corporate structure, which states that the company is owned by 96,768 shareholding employees. Nearly 90% of these are current employees -- each of whom elected the company representatives in its collective leadership model -- while the others are "retired and restructured."
However, research published in April suggests it's more complicated than that. Huawei's employees have contractual interests in a profit-sharing plan, but The New York Times noted in April that those shares can't be transferred to others or owned by nonemployees. If an employee under a certain level of seniority leaves the company, it buys the shares back.
The company is apparently 100% owned by a holding company, around 1% of which is owned by Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei and 99% owned by a mysterious trade union committee -- which, the researchers say, due to the nature of Chinese trade unions essentially means Huawei is controlled by the state.
Jiang Xisheng, chief secretary of the Huawei board of directors, told reporters that this is a matter of legal convenience and that the union doesn't influence business operations.
The company was blacklisted by the US in May when it was added to the "entity list" due to concerns about its relationship with the Chinese government. However, US companies will be able to sell equipment to Huawei if they're granted licenses and there's no threat to national security. In July, President Donald Trump reportedly agreed to award those licensing deals in a "timely" way.
Trump signed an executive order essentially banning Huawei in May in light of national security implications over the company's alleged ties with the Chinese government -- though Huawei repeatedly has denied those links.
At the time, Google locked Huawei devices out of updates for its Android operating system, but the Commerce Department granted it a three-month general license in late May to update existing devices. Huawei then moved to trademark the name of its in-house operating system, "Hongmeng," in Peru, suggesting a move away from Android. A report this week said the first Hongmeng-powered phone will be released this year.
Huawei didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the poll.
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First published at 3:54 a.m. PT.
Updated at 8:05 a.m. PT: Adds results of Facebook poll.