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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Eight Chinese Government Officials Charged with Directing Employee of a U.S. Telecommunications Company to Remove Chinese Dissidents from Company’s Platform

Starting in 2018, Jin and his co-defendants repeatedly sought to terminate video chat meetings organized by a Chinese dissident residing in New York City who has been a vocal critic of the PRC government and the Chinese Communist party.

An amended complaint was unsealed charging a total of 10 defendants, including a former executive of a U.S. telecommunications company (Company-1) who worked in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), six officers of the PRC Ministry of Public Security (MPS), two officials with the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), and one other civilian with conspiracy to commit interstate harassment and unlawful conspiracy to transfer means of identification.  All the defendants are believed to reside in the PRC and remain at large.

Carolyn Pokorny, First Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York[1]; Matthew G. Olsen, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s National Security Division; and David Sundberg, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington Field Office (FBI), announced the charges.

“The amended complaint charging a former PRC-based employee of a U.S. telecommunications company illustrates the insider threat faced by U.S. companies operating in the PRC,” stated First Assistant United States Attorney Pokorny, who thanked Company-1 for its cooperation in the government’s investigation.  “As alleged, Julien Jin and his co-conspirators in the Ministry of Public Security and Cyberspace Administration of China weaponized the U.S. telecommunications company he worked for to intimidate and silence dissenters, and enforce PRC law to the detriment of Chinese activists in New York, among other places, who had sought refuge in this country to peacefully express their pro-democracy views.”

“These cases demonstrate the lengths the PRC government will go to silence and harass U.S. persons who exercise their fundamental rights to speak out against PRC oppression, including by unlawfully exploiting a U.S.-based technology company,” stated Assistant Attorney General Olsen.   “These actions violate our laws and are an affront to our democratic values and basic human rights.”

“These cases demonstrate that the Chinese Communist Party, once again, attempted to intimidate, harass, and suppress Chinese dissidents in the United States,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sundberg.  “In the U.S., freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our democracy, and the FBI will work tirelessly to defend everyone’s right to speak freely without fear of retribution from the CCP. These complex investigations revealed an MPS-wide effort to repress individuals by using a U.S. communications platform and fake social media accounts to censor political and religious speech.”

As alleged in the amended complaint, ten individuals, including a former PRC-based Company-1 executive, six MPS officers, and two officials with the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), are charged with conspiracy to commit interstate harassment and unlawful conspiracy to transfer means of identification.

In December 2020, the Department first announced charges against Julien Jin in connection with his efforts to disrupt a series of meetings on the Company-1 platform held in May and June 2020 commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.  Julien Jin served as Company-1’s primary liaison with PRC government law enforcement and intelligence services.  In that capacity, he regularly responded to requests from the PRC government to terminate meetings and block users on Company-1’s video communications platform.

As detailed in the original complaint, Jin and others conspired to use Company-1’s U.S. systems to censor the political and religious speech of individuals located in the United States and elsewhere at the direction of the PRC government. For example, Jin and others disrupted meetings held on the Company-1 platform to discuss politically sensitive topics unacceptable to the PRC government – including the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Jin and his co-conspirators fabricated evidence of purported misconduct to cause U.S.-based employees of Company-1 to terminate the meetings.

The allegations in the amended complaint reveal that Jin worked directly with and took orders from defendants at the MPS and the CAC to disrupt meetings on the Company-1 platform and that the co-defendants had targeted U.S.-based dissidents’ speech on Company-1’s platform since 2018.

Starting in 2018, Jin and his co-defendants repeatedly sought to terminate video chat meetings organized by a Chinese dissident residing in New York City who has been a vocal critic of the PRC government and the Chinese Communist party. After the CAC requested that Company-1 terminate the dissident’s meetings on the Company-1 platform, Jin worked to identify all accounts associated with the dissident, caused meetings related to the dissident to be hosted in a “quarantine zone” – that is, on a server with known lags in response time – and later worked to block all accounts associated with the dissident. Similarly, in 2019, Jin collaborated with the MPS and CAC to block accounts seeking to commemorate the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

The charges in the amended complaint are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s National Security and Cybercrime Section.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexander A. Solomon, Ian C. Richardson, Nicholas J. Moscow and Jessica K. Weigel of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, with Trial Attorney Scott A. Claffee of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are in charge of the prosecution.

The FBI has created a website for victims to report efforts by foreign governments to stalk, intimidate, or assault people in the United States. Please visit: www.fbi.gov/investigate/counterintelligence/transnational-repression.

The Defendants:

JIN XINJIANG (also known as “Julien Jin”)
Age: 42
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

CHEN YUANYUAN (陈媛媛)
Age: Unknown
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

FU YIBIN (傅一彬)
Age: 39
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

HUANG YIWEN (黄奕雯) also known as “Nicole Huang”
Age: 25
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

JIN TAO (金涛)
Age: Unknown
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

LIU ZHIYANG (刘智洋)
Age: 43
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

SHEN ZHENHUA (沈振华)
Age: 41
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

SONG GUORONG (宋国荣)
Age: 43
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

TIAN XINNING (田心宁)
Age: Unknown
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

XU WEI (徐威)
Age: 35
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

Read more at the Justice Department

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