Tech executive accused of working with Chinese government to disrupt Tiananmen Square video chats

AARON KATERSKY and ALEXANDER MALLIN
·2 min read
Tech executive accused of working with Chinese government to disrupt Tiananmen Square video chats

A China-based executive of an American telecommunications company was charged Friday with disrupting video conferences meant to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Xinjiang Jin's alleged conduct is part of what federal prosecutors in Brooklyn called the "Faustian bargain" China demands of U.S. technology firms that operate in the People's Republic of China.

"Jin worked closely with the PRC government and members of PRC intelligence services to help the PRC government silence the political and religious speech of users of the platform of a U.S. technology company," said acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme. "The charges announced today make clear that employees working in the PRC for U.S. technology companies make those companies -- and their users -- vulnerable to the malign influence of the PRC government."

The charging document doesn't name the company, but a source familiar with the case told ABC News Jin worked for Zoom, which cooperated with the investigation.

PHOTO: A demonstrator blocks the path of a tank convoy along the Avenue of Eternal Peace near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, June 05, 1989. (Bettmann Archive via Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: A demonstrator blocks the path of a tank convoy along the Avenue of Eternal Peace near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, June 05, 1989. (Bettmann Archive via Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: Xinjiang Jin is pictured in an undated image released by the FBI. (Federal Bureau of Investigation)
PHOTO: Xinjiang Jin is pictured in an undated image released by the FBI. (Federal Bureau of Investigation)

Jin is not in U.S. custody, but the FBI issued a wanted poster for his arrest.

"No company with significant business interests in China is immune from the coercive power of the Chinese Communist Party," said Assistant Attorney General John Demers. "The Chinese Communist Party will use those within its reach to sap the tree of liberty, stifling free speech in China, the United States and elsewhere about the Party's repression of the Chinese people."

Jin served as Zoom's primary liaison with Chinese law enforcement and intelligence services, and, according to the charging document, he regularly responded to requests from the Chinese government for information and to terminate meetings hosted on Zoom's video communications platform.

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Jin also was responsible for proactively monitoring Zoom's video communications platform for what the Chinese Communist Party considers to be "illegal" meetings to discuss political and religious subjects, according to prosecutors.

Jin and others terminated at least four Zoom video meetings commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, most of which were organized and attended by U.S.-based participants, such as dissidents who had participated in and survived the 1989 protests, prosecutors said.

PHOTO: Chinese riot police beat student protestors during the Tiananmen Square protests of April-June 1989 in Beijing, China.  (Peter Turnley/Corbis via Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: Chinese riot police beat student protestors during the Tiananmen Square protests of April-June 1989 in Beijing, China. (Peter Turnley/Corbis via Getty Images, FILE)

Zoom told ABC News that Jin has since been fired for violating company policies, and other employees have been placed on administrative leave as the company investigates further.

A Zoom spokesperson said in a statement, in part: "While the DOJ did not share with us its factual allegations in advance of the public release of the complaint, we learned during the course of our investigation that the China-based former employee charged today violated Zoom’s policies by, among other things, attempting to circumvent certain internal access controls. We also learned that this former employee took actions resulting in the termination of several meetings and accounts, and shared or directed the sharing of a limited amount of individual user data with Chinese authorities."

Tech executive accused of working with Chinese government to disrupt Tiananmen Square video chats originally appeared on abcnews.go.com