Odd Legal Theory as to “China-Based Executive at [Zoom] Charged with Disrupting Video Meetings Commemorating Tiananmen Square Massacre”
Yesterday, federal prosecutors announced a prosecution of Xinjiang Jin for “allegedly participat[ing] in a scheme to disrupt a series of [Zoom] meetings in May and June 2020 held to commemorate the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in the PRC.” The meetings “were organized and hosted by U.S-based individuals.”
Jin worked for Zoom in China, dealing with Zoom’s compliance with Chinese law as to Zoom’s activity in China (much of which is lawful under U.S. law). But, according to the criminal complaint, he worked with various people associated with the Chinese government to stop various U.S.-based meetings, and to surveil participants in the meetings, including by fraudulent means: The coconspirators allegedly used false names to “infiltrat[e] the meetings to gather evidence about purported misconduct occurring in those meetings,” and
created fake … accounts in the names of others, including PRC political dissidents, to fabricate evidence that the hosts of and participants in the meetings to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre were supporting terrorist organizations, inciting violence or distributing child pornography. The fabricated evidence falsely asserted that the meetings included discussions of child abuse or exploitation, terrorism, racism or incitements to violence, and sometimes included screenshots of the purported participants’ user profiles featuring, for example, a masked person holding a flag resembling that of the Islamic State terrorist group.
Jin used the complaints as evidence to persuade [Zoom] executives based in the United States to terminate meetings and suspend or terminate the user accounts of the meeting hosts.
[People’s Republic of China] authorities took advantage of information provided by Jin to retaliate against and intimidate participants residing in the PRC, or PRC-based family members of meeting participants. PRC authorities temporarily detained at least one person who planned to speak during a commemoration meeting. In another case, PRC authorities visited family members of a participant in the meetings and directed them to tell the participant to cease speaking out against the PRC government and rather to support socialism and the [Chinese Communist Party].
Now this is obviously bad behavior, but here’s what struck me as odd:
- Jin (who is a Chinese citizen living in China, and who I assume will therefore never actually stand trial in the U.S.) is not being prosecuted for fraud.
- He is not being prosecuted for some crime of wrongfully assisting a foreign government to suppress speech in the U.S. (which I think could be made a crime, but apparently hasn’t been).
- He is not being sued for libel for participating in a scheme to get other people’s events canceled through lies.
Instead, he’s being charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking, on the theory that his and his coconspirators’ actions, were taken “wit
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