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View of a Huawei advert outside an Apple Store in Shanghai, China.
Huawei, whose P-series handsets compete with Apple’s iPhone, on New Year’s Day wished followers a “Happy #2019” in a tweet marked sent “via Twitter for iPhone.”
The tweet was quickly removed but screenshots of the blunder spread across social media.
“The traitor has revealed himself,” quipped one user on microblog Weibo, in a comment ‘liked’ over 600 times.
In an internal Huawei memo dated Jan. 3 seen by Reuters, corporate senior vice-president and director of the board Chen Lifang said, “the incident caused damage to the Huawei brand.”
The mistake occurred when outsourced social media handler Sapient experienced “VPN problems” with a desktop computer so used an iPhone with a roaming SIM card in order to send the message on time at midnight, Huawei said in the memo.
Twitter, like several foreign services such as those from Facebook and Alphabet, is blocked in China, where the Internet is heavily censored. To gain access, users need a virtual private network (VPN) connection.
Huawei, which overtook Apple as the world’s second-largest smartphone vendor by volume in January-September, declined to comment on internal issues when contacted by Reuters.
Sapient did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent via the contact form on its website. Calls to its Beijing office went unanswered.
Huawei in the memo said the blunder showed procedural incompliance and management oversight. It said it had demoted two employees responsible by one rank and reduced their monthly salaries by 5,000 yuan ($728.27).
The pay rank of one of the employees — Huawei’s digital marketing director — will also be frozen for 12 months, it said.
It is not the first time use of the Apple product has given cause for embarrassment.
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of nationalistic tabloid Global Times, was mocked online last year after he used his iPhone when expressing support for Huawei and domestic peer ZTE. He later said his actions were not hypocritical as foreign brands should not be discriminated against.