Exclusive: Huawei employees ask U.S. for right to compete

December 2, 2011: 3:10 PM ET

The fast-growing gear maker has been thwarted in the U.S. by national security concerns. Now, employees are rallying on behalf of the company.

FORTUNE -- Earlier this year Fortune chronicled China-based telecom equipment maker Huawei's efforts to win private contracts in the United States. Thus far the fast-growing gear maker, which last year had sales of $27 billion, has been thwarted by national security concerns.

Now FORTUNE has learned that external relations VP William Plummer is asking Huawei's US employees to rally on behalf of the company.  In an email obtained by Fortune, with the subject line "Exercising your Rights—Support of Huawei," Plummer asks US employees of the company to consider writing to their Congressional reps.

At issue? A recently-announced U.S. House Intelligence Committee investigation into China-based telecom gear providers. According to Plummer's note to employees, Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, specifically calls out Huawei. ZTE, another gear maker whose shares trade in Hong Kong, is also named in the investigation.

Plummer's email to employees suggests that they encourage their representatives to pursue "an open, full and fact-based consideration of the threats presented by global supply chains, regardless of the integrator or end-solution supplier." (Tranlsation: Couldn't an American company with operations and engineers in China be just as likely a challenge to security as Huawei?)

But Plummer clearly wants to Congress to lay off Huawei. His sample letter (full text below the fold) for employees to forward to their lawmakers,  reminds the reader that Huawei is a growing company and a potential job creator.  "I wanted to bring to your attention an ongoing Congressional activity that potentially threatens my livelihood and my family's well-being, as well as those of my American and other colleagues," the sample letter says. Huawei has more than 1,500 employees in the U.S., and 120,000 worldwide.

Here's the complete text of the letter Plummer suggests employees personalize and send to their Congressional leaders:

Dear: The Honorable <insert name>

My name is <insert name> and I am writing to you as one of your constituents <or, "as an American," if addressed to an Intelligence Committee Member not from your District> living in <insert hometown.> I wanted to bring to your attention an ongoing Congressional activity that potentially threatens my livelihood and my family's well-being, as well as those of my American and other colleagues.

I work for Huawei Technologies, a $28 billion, 120,000-person multinational telecommunications company based in China which provides information and communications technology solutions to 45 of the world's top 50 telecommunications service providers in over 140 markets across the planet.

While Huawei has made modest inroads in the U.S., due to concerns related to our Chinese heritage, our ability to do business in the U.S. has occasionally been challenged due to unspecified "national security concerns."  Such concerns have never been substantiated and Huawei has never had the benefit of due process or to know or understand the charges against it or to otherwise defend itself.

On November 17, 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee announced an investigation into whether China-based telecommunications equipment providers supplying solutions to U.S. operators might somehow facilitate espionage or threaten America's critical infrastructure. The Committee Chairman specifically named Huawei as a target of the investigation.

Network security concerns are very real, but, given that all telecommunications solutions from every vendor contain global - including Chinese - inputs and code, the concerns apply to each and every vendor.  In this regard, the Intelligence Committee investigation offers a unique opportunity for an open, full and fact-based consideration of the threats presented by global supply chains, regardless of the integrator or end-solution provider.  Indeed, such an approach will serve to foster true and non-political solutions to securing American networks, data, and communications service continuity, while preserving competition.

As your constituent <or, "as an American," if addressed to an Intelligence Committee Member not from your District>, I call on you to encourage the Committee to leverage the knowledge of a balanced representation of public and private sector experts on telecommunications, security, competition and trade, and to conduct its review in an impartial and transparent fashion towards a fact-based outcome.

Best regards

<insert name>

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About This Author
Stephanie Mehta
Stephanie Mehta
Deputy Managing Editor , Fortune

Stephanie N. Mehta is the deputy managing editor at Fortune, overseeing technology coverage for Fortune. She also is a co-chair of the annual Brainstorm Tech conference, an annual gathering of tech and media thinkers. Previously, Mehta spent seven years as a tech writer at Fortune covering the telecom and media industries. She also has worked for the Wall Street Journal and the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va.

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