Chinese tech company Huawei tried to order journalists not to write about its awkward press tour

Huawei CEO Richard YuReutersHuawei executive Richard Yu holds the Huawei’s new smartphone, the Ascend P7, launched by China’s Huawei Technologies during a presentation in Paris, May 7, 2014.

Given that Huawei has been around since 1987, one might expect the Chinese tech company to have refined its press outreach.

But reporters on a recent press tour of one of its facilities were greeted with a bizarre response to an awkward question, Angus Grigg reports for the Financial Review.

Grigg writes that journalists were visiting one of the company’s R&D facilities, when the issue of national security came up. It’s a thorny one — the company’s tech was banned from banning for US tech contracts in 2011 over Chinese government spying fears.

Huawei’s then-CEO Guo Ping brushed the ban off in a 2014 interview with the BBC, claiming that it was “not very important… if they’re not ready, we can wait.” In short, the company had discussed the issue before, and should probably expected it might one day come up again.

But when a journalist brought it up — a year later — at the recent facility tour, Huawei’s PR became incredibly defensive. All photography had already been forbidden, and they then demanded that journalists didn’t even write about the tour — an order that Grigg, clearly, disobeyed.

Here’s Grigg on what the journalists were told:

“You should not write anything about Huawei in your reports,” we were ordered in a tone which harked back to the Cultural Revolution. When it was pointed out Huawei had actually invited the media to visit its campus, the response was telling.

“We didn’t invite you,” said the PR person. “It was the government that invited you and now you should leave.”

Press tours are an easy way for companies to try and and win over journalists. But they can be PR disasters when they go wrong.

Earlier this year, the Qatari government invited journalists to visit following numerous reports of serious mistreatment of migrant reporters in the country. But things went awry when several journalists were arrested after they tried to go and actually speak to some workers. “A dozen security officers frisked us in the street, shouting at us when we tried to talk. They took away our equipment and hard drives and drove us to their headquarters,” Mark Lobel wrote for the BBC.

Business Insider has reached out to Huawei for comment and will update this story when it responds.

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