Controversial Firing of a Chinese Facebook Engineer Angers China

Software engineer Yi Yin was recently fired from Facebook after he accused the tech giant of mistreating foreign employees.

Yin said that he received an email warning on the same day he attended a memorial for Qin Chen, a colleague who jumped from the fourth floor to his death.

The 37-year-old, who joined Facebook’s core growth team in July, told CNBC about rumors that Chen may have held an H-1B visa, which allows U.S. employers to employ highly skilled foreign professionals.

Chen was reportedly concerned about his position at Facebook after he received a mediocre performance review by his supervisors at the company’s advertisement engineering team.

Yin, who is also from China and on a work visa, didn’t know him personally, but Chen was reportedly bullied by his manager.

Yin wants to shed light on Facebook’s “H-1B abuse” and its performance summary cycle (PSC), semi-annual reviews that include extensive peer reviews. The system has been criticized for reprimanding employees who perform well, but don’t participate in group activities.

Yin received a final warning from human resources on October 1 after taking part in the protest demanding justice for Chen, and he was dismissed on October 7.

Facebook later told him in an email that he would need to pay back $39,000 of his sign-on bonus.

Following his termination, Yin created a post on LinkedIn that described how he lost his job, which got over 9,000 likes and 900 comments.

The translation of the post reads: “Thank you for your concern, after participating in the protest, interviewing in person and asking the company to tell the truth, I am still fine. The pressure is a little bit bigger. I got a final warning letter, and I’m going to put it up, put it in a box, and hang it on the bedroom wall. Update: Have been officially dismissed and returned to freedom.”

In a statement to Bloomberg, Yin said before he was fired that Facebook demanded an end to his public comments related to the death of Chen due to privacy concerns.

A company spokesperson clarified that Yin wasn’t fired for protesting or speaking to reporters.

“This employee was not fired for joining a protest or talking about the recent tragedy on our campus,” the spokesperson said. “He was here for a matter of weeks, and showed poor judgement in a string of policy violations. We won’t stand for our employees intimidating one another.”

“Tech companies in Silicon Valley are almost hitting their ceilings so they have the pressure to cut jobs and increase efficiency,” Yin told Bloomberg in a phone interview.

“Chinese people usually don’t make trouble, giving the impression that we are weak and easy to pick on.”

Facebook still has not informed Yin what rules he had broken to deserve termination.

“We won’t get into the specifics of confidential, internal conversations,” the company said.

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