US Indicts Former Zoom China Liaison for Doing PRC’s Bidding
A former China liaison at Zoom has been indicted by the US for interfering in meetings, monitoring users and fabricating evidence against them as per Beijing’s instructions.
Xinjiang (“Julien”) Jin, faces a maximum 10 years in prison if found guilty of conspiracy to commit interstate harassment and unlawful conspiracy to transfer a means of identification. However, Jin is unlikely to face trial given that he’s based in China.
The former Zoom man was originally hired at the behest of the Communist Party after it blocked the service in China in autumn 2019. His alleged role appears to have been something akin to an unofficial content censor and spy.
“Part of Jin’s duties included providing information to the PRC government about [Zoom] users and meetings, and in some cases he provided information – such as Internet Protocol addresses, names and email addresses – of users located outside of the PRC,” the indictment noted.
“Jin was also responsible for proactively monitoring [Zoom] video communications platform for what the PRC government considers to be ‘illegal’ meetings to discuss political and religious subjects unacceptable to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the PRC government.”
Most notably, Jin is said to have terminated four meetings held to remember the Tiananmen Square massacre. He and others are alleged to have infiltrated the meetings, and fabricated evidence using fake emails to claim that the attendees were supporting terrorist organizations, inciting violence and/or distributing child pornography.
They used this ‘evidence’ to justify shutting down the meeting and, in turn, the government in Beijing used it to intimidate attendees and/or their families based in China.
“The allegations in the complaint lay bare the Faustian bargain that the PRC government demands of US technology companies doing business within the PRC’s borders, and the insider threat that those companies face from their own employees in the PRC,” argued acting US attorney Seth DuCharme.
“As alleged, 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 US technology company. Jin willingly committed crimes, and sought to mislead others at the company, to help PRC authorities censor and punish US users’ core political speech merely for exercising their rights to free expression.”
Zoom has published a blog post in response highlighting the things it is doing to improve transparency and internal controls to protect freedom of speech. These include: end-to-end encryption, strict geo-fenced data routing to prevent content being routed through China, restricted access controls for Chinese employees and improved data protection training for all employees.
It also said that all government requests must now first be approved by Zoom’s US legal team.