A former Zoom employee is being charged with disrupting virtual meetings discussing the June 4 anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. US prosecutors allege that the employee disrupted the meetings on behalf of the Chinese government.
In April 1989, the largest pro-democracy protest in China’s history took place in Tiananmen Square, a plaza in China’s capital, Beijing. About one million people participated in the protests that lasted about six weeks.
Related: Zoom says it will continue to censor for China, (but only against citizens in mainland China)
The Chinese government ended the protests by declaring martial law. On June 4 1989, military troops armed with tanks and assault rifles opened fire, killing and injuring unarmed protestors. Authorities insisted no one was shot dead during the incident. However, thousands were injured and the death toll was estimated to be somewhere between a few hundred and several thousand.
In China, discussing the massacre is taboo and the topic is often censored across social media.
The government issued an arrest warrant for Xinjiang Jin, a former Zoom employee based in China for helping to terminate several Zoom meetings to discuss the massacre set by users in the US. Jin is accused of helping terminate at least four meetings in May and June.
“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 DuCharme 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.
An official statement from the US Department of Justice states that Xinjiang Jin, also known as Julien Jin, is being charged with “conspiracy to commit interstate harassment and unlawful conspiracy to transfer a means of identification.”
He also 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.”
The California-based video meetings company has promised to cooperate with US authorities and in a statement said that the company is “fully cooperating with all of these investigations,” directing users to this blog post for more information. However, China is yet to comment in the case.
Jin, who lives in China, is not yet in the custody of US authorities. If arrested and found guilty of the charges, he faces up to 10 years in federal prison.