Allegations against the video conferencing company Zoom had temporarily shut down the account of a United States based group that supports human rights in China after the group had organized an event on the platform to remember the Tiananmen Square massacre of China. The group described the incident of blocking their account as outrageous.
The group was not able to access its account on Sunday, a week after it held the virtual meeting, said the Humanitarian China, an organization that is based in California, US, that provides “relief for political prisoners and activists” in China, said in a statement. The Zoom conference was joined by more than 250 people worldwide while other streamed it live on social media, the group said.
“The Zoom account used for this conference displayed a message that it had been shut down,” the organization said. “Zoom has not responded to our requests for an explanation.”
For China’s ruling Communist Party, the incident of the Tiananmen Square crackdown is a very touchy and sensitive issue. Chinese civilians protesting for democracy were fired upon by the Chinese army on June 4, 1989, at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing where they had been holding protests for several weeks demanding greater democracy in the country. The death toll in the incident is varied, ranging from several hundred to thousands.
The May 31 event included the Tiananmen Mothers, a group set up by those who lost children in the massacre, said Zhou Fengsuo, a former protest leader in Beijing who leads Humanitarian China. Writers, scholars and former student leaders were participants in the event, the group also said.
“A significant proportion of attendees were from China,” the group said in its statement. “Our conference provided many the opportunity to connect with activists abroad for the first time.”
The news website Axios first reported the news of the account closure of the group by Zoon.
The “US-based account” involved in the matter was reactivated, Zoom confirmed to the media. The company “must comply with laws in the countries where we operate”, said Zoom in a statement released Thursday.
“We strive to limit actions taken to those necessary to comply with local law. Our platform is increasingly supporting complex, cross-border conversations, for which the compliance with the laws of multiple countries is very difficult,” the company said. “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 group, Humanitarian China, however said that it was “outraged” by the fact that Zoom, despite being a US company seemed to have made the decision to deactivate the account according to Chinese law. Zoom was “complicit in erasing the memories of the Tiananmen Massacre in collaboration with an authoritarian government,” the group said in the statement.
While confirming that his account had been reactivated, Zhou said that his team wanted clarification from Zoom about the reasons for the suspension of the services to the account,
“We haven’t heard from Zoom. We want to know why,” Zhou said.
(Adapted from CNN.com)