Chinese tech giant Huawei said a former employee had the right to sue the company, amid allegations that he was wrongly detained for eight months on extortion charges.

Li Hongyuan, 35, claimed that he was detained for 251 days from December last year and formally charged in January after he negotiated a severance package with the company.

Li, who worked for Huawei for 12 years, said his director decided not to renew his contract at the end of 2017, after he reported to company management about alleged fraud in his department in 2016, Shanghai-based Jiemian News reported on Monday.

A former Huawei employee says he was wrongly accused of trying to extort money from the company. (Picture: Reuters)

Li said he negotiated a severance package of more than 331,000 yuan (US$47,000), and 300,000 yuan was transferred to his account through a secretary’s personal account in March 2018, according to the report.

He was taken into custody the following December and told by prosecutors in April that the charges related to “300,000 yuan extorted from Huawei.”

However, he was released in August because the prosecution concluded that “the criminal facts are unclear and the evidence is insufficient,” according to court documents Li posted online.

According to the report, Li taped all conversations about his severance negotiations with Huawei’s human resources division and presented copies of the recordings to prosecutors, which he said helped to prove his case.

“I still hope to communicate with Huawei. Best that [founder and chief executive] Ren Zhengfei communicate with me. I’ll just take up 30 minutes of his time,” the report quoted Li as saying.

Li did not respond to interview requests from the South China Morning Post.

In a statement on Tuesday, Huawei said it had “the right, and in fact a duty, to report the facts of any suspected illegal conduct to authorities.”

“We respect the decisions made by the authorities, including those of the public security bureau, the court, and the procuratorate,” the company said.

“If Li Hongyuan believes that he has suffered damages or that his rights have been infringed, we support his right to seek satisfaction through legal means, up to and including lawsuit against Huawei. This is in keeping with the principle of equality before the law.”

Li’s allegations were widely discussed on Chinese social media, with many expressing anger against the company, something that has been rare since Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and Ren’s daughter, was arrested in Canada a year ago.

Canadian police, at the behest of the United States, apprehended Meng on charges of bank fraud in December last year while she was transiting in Canada. She was placed under house arrest, where she has remained for the past year as Canadian courts deliberate over her extradition to the US.

On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, many users sympathized with Li.

“You may graduate from one of China’s top 985 universities, you work 996, you get fired at 35 years old, get detained for 251 days, and when you defend your rights, the reports are 404 – censored,” one post said. “996” refers to working six days a week from 9am to 9pm.

It is not the first time Huawei has come under fire for the treatment of its employees.

One staff member’s complaints on an internal forum about work conditions at the company was leaked and went viral on social media platforms.

Ren responded to the post saying that he supported discussion of contentious issues but that the debate should be kept within the company.