One of the executives of Tencent Holdings, China’s most valuable publicly listed company, has been detained by the authorities as part of a high-profile corruption case involving a former senior law enforcement official in the country. The Wall Street Journal was told this by informed sources.
Zhang Feng has been under investigation since last year on charges of unauthorized sharing of personal data collected by Tencent’s WeChat social network. It is alleged that Mr. Zhang is suspected of transmitting WeChat data to former Deputy Public Security Minister Sun Lijun, who is being investigated by Beijing for violations of Communist Party rules (which are not reported). Investigators allegedly find out what information Zhang Feng could share with Mr. Song and what the latter did with them.
Tencent, a Hong Kong-based company with a market capitalization of about $ 900 billion, confirmed Thursday that Mr. Zhang is under investigation. “The case is connected with allegations of personal corruption and has nothing to do with Wechat or Weixin“A spokesman said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal. To clarify, Weixin is a WeChat partner app that is well known in China.
Zhang Feng was mentioned as Vice President of Tencent in a statement released by the Zhangjiakou City Municipal Government, in which the leader met with the mayor in October 2018. Now, Tencent has said that Mr. Zhang has never held any significant leadership positions at the company.
During his tenure at Tencent, Zhang was responsible for liaising with the government and meeting with Chinese officials, one source said. It is not known where Mr. Zhang is now. Journalists were unable to contact him for comment. This case shows that Beijing fears the growing influence of technology companies and their potential to misuse or share user data.
Interestingly, billionaire Pony Ma, founder and CEO of Tencent, has not appeared in public or personally attending major events in mainland China since August 2019. According to sources, he spends most of his time in Hong Kong.
Tencent’s WeChat is the most popular social network in China. The chat functions of this mobile app and online payments make it an indispensable element in the daily life of hundreds of millions of Chinese people. Over the years, Tencent has amassed a massive amount of data on its 1.2 billion active monthly users.
Tencent is currently China’s most valuable public company, surpassing even e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding in market capitalization.
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