Huawei UK directors quit over stance on Russian invasion

The two British board members of Huawei’s UK subsidiary are to resign over the Chinese telecoms giant’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sky News has learnt that Sir Andrew Cahn and Sir Ken Olisa notified the company on Wednesday that they intend to step down from their positions as non-executive directors.

City sources said the two men had urged Huawei to issue a public statement through its headquarters in Shenzhen, China, to denounce the Putin administration’s actions, to no avail.

Sir Andrew has been associated with Huawei UK since 2011, joining the board in 2015, while Sir Ken became a director in 2018.

Ken Olisa, deputy chairman of Institute of Directors
Sir Ken Olisa is the Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London

The two men are well-respected figures in the British corporate world, with Sir Andrew having run UK Trade & Investment, and Sir Ken serving as the current Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London.

One source insisted that Huawei had historically not commented on matters of external politics.

However, the deluge of corporate statements condemning Russia’s actions in recent days meant that the company’s silence had effectively left Sir Andrew and Sir Ken in an untenable position.

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The insider said their resignations were not connected to allegations – denied by Huawei – about the company’s operations in Russia reported in recent days.

Responding to an enquiry from Sky News, a Huawei spokesperson said: “Sir Andrew Cahn and Sir Ken Olisa brought considerable experience from the world of business and technology to Huawei UK’s board of directors when they were appointed in 2015 and 2018 respectively.

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How important a role will China play in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

“Both have shown strong support for Huawei’s commitment to the UK and have helped uphold the highest standards of corporate governance and we thank them for their invaluable guidance.”

Neither Sir Andrew nor Sir Ken responded to a request for comment.

Robert Lewandowski, the Polish footballer who scored a hat-trick for Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday, is reportedly terminating a commercial tie-up with Huawei because of its stance on Ukraine.

Sir Andrew and Sir Ken are not the first directors to resign from Huawei UK over political matters.

Last year, Sir Mike Rake, the former BT Group chairman, quit after just a year on the board amid a crackdown by the UK government on Huawei’s British operations.

Lord Browne, the former BP chief executive, left Huawei in July 2020 for similar reasons.

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