Background Info on Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou Emerges As Her Arrest Draws Scrutiny

December 7, 2018 Updated: December 8, 2018

Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Chinese tech giant Huawei, has been thrust in the media spotlight after her arrest in Canada on Dec. 1 for possible violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Meng is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei. Ren was the former director of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Staff Department’s Information Engineering Academy.

Notably, father and the daughter do not share the same last name due to the prominent social status of Meng’s mother, Meng Jun, according to Chinese media.

Meng Jun’s father was Meng Dongbo, deputy secretary of a political committee with the East China Field Army—an army of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during China’s civil war. Meng Dongbo also held other positions during his long political career, including CCP secretary of Dukou, a city in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province, deputy governor of Sichuan, deputy director of the standing committee of Sichuan’s 6th People’s Congress, and a representative of the 5th National People’s Congress.

Meng Dongbo was Sichuan’s vice-governor when Ren and Meng Jun were married during China’s Cultural Revolution. Because of the political prominence of the Meng Family, Ren had an uxorilocal marriage—meaning that he moved to live with Meng Jun’s family following the marriage. As a result, their first child Meng Wanzhou, born in 1972, took on her mother’s last name.

Ren was born in Guizhou, one of the poorest provinces in China.

Chinese culture traditionally follows a patrilineal family system, whereby women marry into their husbands’ families. Some men, however, do marry into their wives’ family due to the higher economic or social status of the latter.

Thanks to the assistance of Meng Dongbo, Ren Zhengfei was able to join the Chinese military, paving the way for him to be the founder of Huawei, which is made more remarkable by the fact that his family was persecuted during the Cultural Revolution because both his parents were intellectuals— Ren’s father was a school principal of and his mother was a teacher. Ren has six younger sisters and brothers.

The Cultural Revolution, which lasted for ten years from 1966 to 1976, was a destructive political campaign launched by China’s first communist leader Mao Zedong. The campaign created tens of millions of victims, with intellectuals like teachers and principals being labeled as “class enemies.”

Ren Zhengfei and Meng Dongbo eventually divorced. Ren went on to re-marry twice, both times to his secretaries.

Meng Wanzhou, 46, had dropped out of high school but took up a job at a bank in China’s southern metropolis of Shenzhen. She joined Huawei in 1993, and was named CFO in 2011. But her ties to Ren was not publicly revealed until 2013—which drew speculation that she would succeed her father to take Huawei’s helm.

Meng Wanzhou has a younger brother, Ren Ping, who used to be called Meng Ping before taking on his father’s last name.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer