Telco Hall of Shame: ZTE

Inductee: ZTE Corp

Headquarters: China

Board Chairman Hou Weigui and the ZTE Board


Countries of Operation: Australia, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Argentina, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Belarus, Bolivia, Brasil Brasilia, Brasil Sao Paulo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Czech, Cyprus, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Cameroon, Chad, Congo Kinshasa, Cote d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Georgia, Guatemala, Gabon, Ghana, Hong Kong, Hungary, Haiti, Ireland, Italy, Iraq, Japan, Jamaica, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Laos, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Mexico, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nepal, Netherlands, Norway, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Paraguay, Panama, Peru, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Salvador, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Tajikistan, Tanzania, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, United States of America, Uruguay, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Venezuela, and Zambia.

Finances: 2,635 Million RMB in net profits for 2011.


ZTE’s CSR vision is to

– conduct all business in an ethical and sustainable way that protects and advances the human rights, health, safety, well-being and personal development of all people working directly or indirectly for ZTE.”

ZTE’s CSR strategy is to proactively develop, implement and improve CSR compliance throughout ZTE and its supply chain based on industry best practices, continuous learning and improvement efforts. Its objective is to develop into a global CSR leader long-term.”

ZTE is committed to the UN Global Compact, which states in part: Human Rights

  1. Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and
  2. Principle 2: make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.


Kickbacks and Bribery in the Philippines

ZTE was accused of engaging in kickbacks and bribery during contract negotiations to build $330 million national broadband network deal in the Philippines in 2007. After these allegations surfaced, the contract was cancelled and the Philippines president resigned over the scandal.

Censorship in Pakistan

In early 2012, Pakistan announced open bidding for a platform that would allow them to censor and block all national internet traffic. Domestic and international civil society groups asked several companies considering bidding to publicly abstain from the project. ZTE’s response ignored the human rights concerns of the activists.

Reports indicate that they may be involved in the new incarnation of the Pakistan internet firewall. ZTE responded to Access’ comments on their possible involvement in the Pakistan Internet Firewall, stating “we do not agree with any suggestion that ZTE is assisting in censorship” without offering concrete assurances that they were not involved in the project, or others like it.

Surveillance assistance for authoritarian regimes

ZTE sold network surveillance equipment to an Iranian telco, putting activists on the ground at risk.

After anti-government rebels seized control of Libya’s state security buildings, files revealed that ZTE had sold unspecified surveillance equipment to Gaddafi’s regime. ZTE refused to comment.


Because of the human rights concerns, ZTE announced that it would be “curtailing” business in Iran.

After a flawed report from the US Congress warned the US government and businesses from engaging with ZTE, the company sold ZTEsec, a unit which specialized in developing and selling surveillance equipment to governments and law enforcement agencies.

Know something about ZTE that we missed? Let our telco policy expert Peter Micek know [email protected] | Public Key: 0x22510994