Twitter’s new China managing-director, Kathy Chen, is causing a major controversy because of her past careers. Chen, a native, used to work for the People’s Liberation Army. While in this position, she researched missile defense for the government for seven years.
What is even more worrying, however, is her time at CA-Jinchen, a joint venture between American-based CA Technologies and China’s Ministry of Public Security, where she made security software, funded by the government, for the government and the private sector.
Stating his worries, activist Yaxue Cao said:
Chen is without a doubt a Chinese Communist Party member, based on a common sense understanding of China. She has been through the most strict and exacting process of political examination, and has been found by the Party to be reliable—all this is certain. My sense is that Kathy Chen’s rapid shift from extremely secret and politically sensitive missile protocol design work, straight to an American software company, is very unusual: in China, even a regular member of the armed forces dealing with secret information isn’t allowed to make overseas visits as they wish, either while in the army or soon after leaving […] They may apply, but I understand that it’s difficult to gain approval. I think it’s a fair assertion that Kathy Chen’s transition from a programmer of top-secret missile protocol to DEC sales could only have happened with the approval of a Chinese government agency. And then there are the four years with CA-Jinchen, which raises questions about the depth of Chen’s involvement in China’s public security sector.
China’s small, but strong community of Twitter users is up in arms over this decision. According to Cao:
Chinese Twitter users are concerned that the hiring of Chen Kui could be the beginning of Twitter’s cooperation […] with the Public Security apparatus and mobile companies in China that will make use of Twitter more difficult for independent users, but at the same time, open up Twitter to government-owned accounts, […] thus changing – or trashing – the Chinese language environment on Twitter. After all such change has occurred already on domestic microblogs over the last couple of years. The Chinese govt has long been weary of Twitter as a fertile ground for anti-CCP sentiments and a place where dissidents gather. The Chinese government’s fear of a color revolution and Twitter’s role in recent social changes in other countries are well known.
It is unknown if Twitter will respond to these accusations, but we will keep you updated with any developments to the story.