China to protect 'legitimate rights' after US penalizes ZTE

BEIJING (AP) — China's government said Tuesday it was ready to protect its "legitimate rights" after U.S. authorities penalized one of the country's most prominent tech companies in a case involving exports of telecoms equipment to Iran and North Korea.

The Commerce Ministry expressed hope Washington would treat ZTE Corp. fairly after the U.S. Commerce Department concluded it paid bonuses to employees involved in the export scheme instead of disciplining them as promised in 2017.

The Commerce Department on Monday barred state-owned ZTE for seven years from importing American components.

ZTE, headquartered in the southern city of Shenzhen, pleaded guilty in March 2017 and agreed to pay a $1.19 billion penalty for shipping the telecoms equipment to North Korea and Iran in violation of U.S. regulations.

"We hope the United States will properly handle the matter in accordance with regulations and create a fair, equitable and stable legal and policy environment for the company," a Commerce Ministry statement said.

"The Ministry of Commerce will pay close attention to the progress of the situation and stands ready to take necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies."

ZTE said in a statement it was "evaluating the possible impact" on the company.