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Zoom shuts down Tiananmen Square activist's account after orders from Chinese government

The company said it had to "comply with applicable laws" in China

Adam Smith
Thursday 11 June 2020 15:08 BST
We turned to Zoom for our first virtual event
We turned to Zoom for our first virtual event (Reuters)

Video conferencing software maker Zoom shut down the account of Chinese activist Zhou Fengsuo at the behest of the Chinese government.

The account was closed because Zhou, and other activists, held a digital event commemorating the Tienanmen Square Massacre.

The Tienanmen Square protests were a student movement for democratic rights in the country set against mass privatisation and neoliberal globalism enacted by Deng Xiaoping, according to historian and participant in the 1989 protest Wang Hui. Thousands of people were killed and wounded when , in what came to be known as the Tienanmen Square Massacre.

Zhou had paid for a Zoom account associated with the U.S. nonprofit Humanitarian China.

On 31 May, 250 people signed in to the meeting, including mothers of students killed in the 1989 event.

On 7 June, however, Zhou found that his Zoom account displayed a message that it had been shut down in a screenshot seen by Axios.

Zhou had not been able to access his account, and Zoom had not been responding to his emails. Reportedly, Zoom also closed the account of former Hong Kong politician Lee Cheuk Yan in late May.

“We are outraged by this act from Zoom, a U.S company,” Zhou and other organisers said in a statement.

“As the most commercially popular meeting software worldwide, Zoom is essential as an unbanned outreach to Chinese audiences remembering and commemorating Tienanmen Massacre during the coronavirus pandemic.”

In response, Zoom said that it had to comply with local law and has reactivated the account.

“Just like any global company, we must comply with applicable laws in the jurisdictions where we operate," it said in a statement. "When a meeting is held across different countries, the participants within those countries are required to comply with their respective local laws.

"We aim to limit the actions we take to those necessary to comply with local law and continuously review and improve our process on these matters. We have reactivated the US-based account," it said.

This news comes after Zoom said that free accounts would not be protected from law enforcement, with the CEO saying he wanted to “work together with FBI, with local law enforcement in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose.”

The company has also suspended the option to provide free accounts in China, citing “regulatory requirements.” Paid accounts remain available.

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