In a novel case, federal prosecutors on Friday brought criminal charges against an executive at Zoom, the videoconferencing company, accusing him of engaging in a conspiracy to disrupt and censor video meetings commemorating one of the most politically sensitive events in China.
Prosecutors said the executive, Xinjiang Jin, who is based in China, fabricated reasons to suspend accounts of people in New York who were hosting memorials on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and coordinated with Chinese officials to identify potentially problematic meetings.
He is accused of working with others to log into the video meetings under aliases using profile pictures that related to terrorism or child pornography. Afterward, Mr. Jin would report the meetings for violating terms of service, prosecutors said.
At least four meetings commemorating the massacre this year — largely attended by U.S.-based users — were terminated as a result of Mr. Jin’s actions, according to prosecutors.
Mr. Jin, who is also known as Julien Jin, acted as the liaison between Zoom and Chinese government authorities, prosecutors said. He is identified in the criminal complaint only as an employee of a U.S. telecommunications company. Zoom confirmed on Friday that it was the company.
Mr. Jin has not been arrested and is at large in China, which does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.
The case represented an unusually sharp warning by law enforcement officials to American technology companies that operate in China, which often find themselves caught between the principles of free speech and the demands of China’s censorship machine.
“Americans should understand that the Chinese government will not hesitate to exploit companies operating in China to further their international agenda, including repression of free speech,” Christopher Wray, director of the F.B.I., said in a statement.
The criminal complaint portrayed a relentless effort by Mr. Jin and others to stop video meetings commemorating the anniversary of the massacre, on June 4.
In the weeks before the anniversary, Mr. Jin warned a co-worker in the United States that Chinese officials were tracking Zoom users and emphasized the need to keep secret demands by the Chinese government for censorship, according to the criminal complaint.
“They request that we cannot disclose it,” Mr. Jin wrote. “Otherwise it will greatly impact our country’s reputation.”
Mr. Jin told the colleague that if the Tiananmen Square issue was poorly handled, China could block the company’s servers, according to prosecutors.
In another instance, Chinese government officials notified Mr. Jin of a planned American-based Tiananmen Square memorial and provided him with the meeting number of the video call, which Mr. Jin was then able to terminate, prosecutors said. It was not clear how officials obtained the meeting number, as it had not been publicized, according to prosecutors.
One dissident in the United States, who was not identified by name, told the F.B.I. that Chinese authorities had pressured several people in China not to speak at a Zoom event that he had organized.
On the morning of the event, the criminal complaint said, Chinese police officers detained one of the potential speakers for several days and arrived at the home of another to prevent the person from logging into any electronics.