(Recasts, adds details)
BEIJING Aug 13 A Chinese academic who sat on a
government anti-monopoly advisory committee has been sacked,
official news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday, saying he had
taken payments from U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc.
Xinhua said Zhang Xinzhu, a member of the top government
think-tank the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the
cabinet's anti-monopoly experts committee, took "huge rewards"
from Qualcomm, itself the subject of an antitrust investigation.
An array of industries has come under the spotlight as China
intensifies efforts to bring companies into compliance with an
anti-monopoly law enacted in 2008.
Calls and emails to Qualcomm's media relations department in
Beijing seeking comment went unanswered. There was no immediate
response to emails requesting comment sent to the company's U.S.
headquarters in San Diego.
In a short, emailed response to questions from Reuters,
Zhang wrote: "(My) individual strength is too insignificant, and
the machine of state too powerful. There can only be silence".
Xinhua is the state news agency. Official announcements are
sometimes made via Xinhua, rather than government departments.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), one
of China's antitrust regulators, is investigating Qualcomm's
The NDRC said in February the chipmaker was suspected of
overcharging and abusing its market position in wireless
communication standards, allegations which could see it hit with
record fines of more than $1 billion.
Xinhua said "certain multinational companies" had been
attempting to delay such probes into them, including spending
money to gain support on experts groups and complaining of being
picked on for being foreign.
"Against this backdrop, hiring relevant 'experts' from
government departments to 'speak on behalf of foreign companies'
is a violation of discipline ... This matter should be gotten to
the bottom of and bought to light," Xinhua wrote.
Xinhua said Zhang had "contravened work discipline" and been
removed from his position on the committee, the report said.
The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China on Wednesday
expressed its concern over the series of antitrust
investigations, saying China was using strong-arm tactics and
appeared to be unfairly targeting foreign firms.
The auto sector has been under particular scrutiny, and the
NDRC, China's state planner, has been investigating it amid
accusations by state media that global car makers are
European car brands including Volkswagen AG's
Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are scrambling
to lower prices for new cars and spare parts in an effort to
appease Chinese regulators who have accused some of them of
Chinese authorities say the law is applied to both domestic
and foreign firms, with the aim of protecting consumers. The
NDRC has said it has targeted domestic telecoms companies,
including China Unicom and China Telecom Corp, and domestic
financial institutions for anti-trust practices.
U.S. companies aside from Qualcomm have also been caught up
in the investigations, including software giant Microsoft Corp
Such investigations have rekindled concerns that the Chinese
government may be using the anti-monopoly law to support
domestic firms at the expense of foreign companies.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Beijing
newsroom; Editing by David Clarke)