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China Arrests Tech Executive For Sharing Personal WeChat Information With Government Official: Report

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Thomas Catenacci Energy & Environment Reporter
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Chinese authorities arrested a tech executive, alleging that he shared personal data from popular social media app WeChat with a government official, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Zhang Feng, an executive at WeChat parent company Tencent Holdings, has been held by Chinese law enforcement authorities, people familiar with the arrest told The Wall Street Journal. Feng allegedly shared WeChat data with former Chinese Vice Public Security Minister Sun Lijun, who is tied up in a Chinese Communist Party investigation on undisclosed violations.

The extent of the data that Zhang allegedly shared remains unclear and a focus of Chinese investigators, the WSJ reported. Authorities are also probing what Sun did with the data he acquired from Zhang.

Ma Huateng, chairman and CEO of Tencent Holdings speaks during the 2017 China International Big Data Industry Expo in Guiyang, China. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Ma Huateng, chairman and CEO of Tencent Holdings speaks during the 2017 China International Big Data Industry Expo in Guiyang, China. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

“[The investigation] relates to allegations of personal corruption and has no relation to WeChat,” a Tencent spokesperson told the WSJ in a statement. (RELATED: Chinese Tech CEO ‘Would Welcome’ Discussion With Biden, Hopes US Takes Softer Approach Toward China)

Tencent, which recently reported quarterly revenue of $18.4 billion, said Zhang has never been a senior executive for the company, according to the WSJ. However, Zhang was identified as a Tencent vice president in a press release following a 2018 meeting with Chinese officials.

Former President Donald Trump’s administration attempted to curb Chinese tech companies’ influence in the U.S. with several executive actions. In August, Trump signed executive orders banning communications with owners of Tencent and TikTok parent company ByteDance, which had been deemed national security threats.

“The continuing activity of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to steal or otherwise obtain United States persons’ data makes clear that there is an intent to use bulk data collection to advance China’s economic and national security agenda,” an executive order from Trump in January said.

Trump also tried to ban TikTok and WeChat from being used in the U.S. However, the Commerce Department said it would stop the TikTok ban in November after a series of unfavorable court rulings.

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