A China-based former Zoom employee has been charged by US prosecutors for disrupting video meetings commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, on behalf of the Chinese government.
A complaint and arrest warrant for Xinjiang Jin, also known as “Julien Jin,” was unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn.
He is accused of helping to terminate at least four video meetings in May and June, hosted by people based in the US.
A statement from the US Department of Justice said Jin had been charged with “conspiracy to commit interstate harassment and unlawful conspiracy to transfer a means of identification”.
Prosecutors say that from January 2019 he conspired to “censor the political and religious speech of individuals located in the United States and around the world at the direction and under the control of officials” in the Chinese government.
Among the actions taken on behalf of China’s government, prosecutors allege that the 39-year-old and others terminated at least four meetings commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
They allege that he fabricated violations of Zoom’s terms of service to justify his actions to his superiors.
“Jin willingly committed crimes, and sought to mislead others at the company, to help [Chinese] authorities censor and punish US users’ core political speech merely for exercising their rights to free expression,” acting US Attorney Seth Du Charme in Brooklyn said in a statement.
According to the statement, the Chinese authorities “took advantage of information provided by Jin to retaliate against and intimidate participants” residing in China or family members of participants based in the country.
The statement does not mention Zoom by name, but the company confirmed that its former employee had been charged.
“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,” it said.
It added that the employee “took actions resulting in the termination of several meetings in remembrance of Tiananmen Square and meetings involving religious and/or political activities” and “also shared or directed the sharing of a limited amount of individual user data with Chinese authorities”.
Mr. Jin is living in China and is not in US custody. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
The California-based company said it had “terminated” the employee for violating its policies, and had “placed other employees on administrative leave pending the completion” of an internal investigation. (Source: BBC)