The U.S. based video-conferencing app Zoom closed the account of a Chinese pro-democracy group at the request of Beijing.
What we know:
- Zhou Fengsuo is the founder of the U.S. nonprofit Humanitarian China. The organization held a Zoom event on May 31 to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. About 250 people attended the event, including mothers of victims killed and organizers of Hong Kong’s Tiananmen candlelight vigil. Zhou was also a student leader at the protests in 1989.
- Lee Cheuk-yan and Wang Dan, prominent pro-democracy activists, also had their Zoom accounts closed. Zhou and organizers of the Tiananmen memorial said the censorship was outrageous. “As the most commercially popular meeting software worldwide, Zoom is essential as an unbanned outreach to Chinese audiences remembering and commemorating Tiananmen Massacre during the coronavirus pandemic.”
- Zoom stated they closed the accounts because they “must comply with applicable laws in the jurisdictions where we operate.” Zoom used meeting metadata to conclude a number of attendees for these events were joining from mainland China. The company acknowledged that Chinese officials had been in touch with them, asking them to ban any users organizing commemorations of Tiananmen Square. The Chinese government forbids discussion of the 1989 demonstration.
- Many are questioning Zoom’s practices when it comes to China. Much of the company’s product development and workforce is based in China. CEO Eric Yuan announced in early June that the company would not use end-to-end encryption on free calls. Zoom has also announced that they will no longer be providing free accounts to China-based users. Officials in the U.S. and Germany have discouraged the use of Zoom, and the application is banned in Taiwan due to security concerns.
Zoom is not the only company to face scrutiny for aiding China in harrassing and spying on activists. LinkedIn came under fire for blocking Zhou Fengsuo’s account from being viewed in China.