Tech

Zoom suspends U.S.-based activist's account after Tiananmen Square commemoration event

Key Points
  • Zoom shut down the account of an activist who was holding an event on the video conferencing platform to commemorate China's Tiananmen Square crackdown.
  • Zoom confirmed it had shut down the account of Humanitarian China to "comply with local law."
  • The incident prompted Zhou Fengsuo, founder of Humanitarian China, to suggest Zoom "acted on pressure" from the Chinese Communist Party.
Zoom CEO Eric Yuan speaks before the Nasdaq opening bell ceremony in New York on April 18, 2019.
Kena Betancur | Getty Images

Zoom shut down the account of an activist who was holding an event on the video conferencing platform to commemorate China's Tiananmen Square crackdown.

The move has prompted accusations that Zoom, a U.S. company, has bowed to pressure from Beijing. 

U.S.-based rights group Humanitarian China held an event on Zoom on May 31 to commemorate those who lost their lives in the violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in China's Tiananmen Square in 1989. The topic is taboo in China and references to it online are heavily censored. 

The account that hosted the event was shut down on June 7, according to Zhou Fengsuo, who founded Humanitarian China and took part in the 1989 protests as a student. The account has since been reinstated.

Zoom confirmed it had suspended the account. 

"Like any global company, Zoom must comply with laws in the countries where we operate. We strive to limit actions taken to those necessary to comply with local law," a Zoom spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

"We regret that a few recent meetings with participants both inside and outside of China were negatively impacted and important conversations were disrupted. It is not in Zoom's power to change the laws of governments opposed to free speech."

The spokesperson added that in situations where local authorities "block communications for participants within their borders," Zoom is developing "additional capabilities that protect these conversations for participants outside of those borders."

Zoom did not lay out any details about what those additional capabilities would be. 

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More than 250 people participated in the meeting while over 4,000 people streamed it online, according to Zhou, who accused Zoom of being complicit in Beijing's censorship.

"It seems possible ZOOM acted on pressure from the CCP (Communist Party of China) to shut down our account. If so, ZOOM is complicit in erasing the memories of the Tiananmen Massacre in collaboration with an authoritarian government," Zhou said in a statement. 

Zoom's share price has risen over 220% this year because of a surge in users video conferencing while working from home amid lockdowns around the world. But the company has faced its share of controversies and it is not the first time its relationship with China has been called into question.

The company admitted earlier this year that it had mistakenly routed some meetings through servers in China.