When the US banned ZTE from buying any American products for seven years, it was expected to have a crippling impact on the company -- with some even fearing it would have to close down entirely.

The US and Chinese governments have since worked out a deal that could keep the company afloat, but until it’s official, the ban is still in place. And it’s still being felt in one very weird place: The men’s toilet.

A photo of a broken urinal has been circulating online, with a sign above it explaining that it can’t be fixed without American parts -- parts the company cannot buy without violating the ban.

It reads: “Our company is now subject to the export ban posed by the US government. Since this bathroom appliance is a product of American Standard, we can’t procure the spare parts for repair due to the export ban. When the export ban is lifted, we promise to get the parts, repair it, and resume operation at once. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.”

We don’t know what exactly is wrong with this urinal… but whatever it is, it won’t be fixed for a while. (Picture: Chenyiwen/Weibo)

The Shenzhen-based telecoms equipment supplier first got in trouble in 2016 for selling to Iran and North Korea, in violation of US sanctions. The company agreed to pay more than US$1 billion and penalize the workers involved.

But in April, the US Commerce Department found that the company retained many of the culprits -- and even handed them their bonuses. As a result, ZTE was banned from buying products from American companies for seven years -- a hammer blow to a company that relies on hardware and software components from the US.

The South China Morning Post confirmed the veracity of the picture with a ZTE employee who said “we are not allowed to purchase US components or accessories.”

The Chinese government is working with the Trump administration to broker a deal which could lift the seven-year ban. The deal requires ZTE to pay an additional US$1 billion fine, put a further US$400 million in escrow and pay for a US-appointed compliance team.  

But the deal is subject to approval, and US lawmakers have already signalled their opposition, showing that ZTE’s troubles as a company are far from over.

One hopes for the sake of ZTE employees that no other toilets break.