A U.S.-based activist who hosted a remembrance ceremony on Zoom to mark the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre had his account temporarily closed.
On May 31, Zhou Fengsuo, who founded the nonprofit Humanitarian China and helped lead the 1989 protests, held a ceremony to mark the 31st anniversary of the June 4 demonstrations, which were crushed by China’s government, according to Axios.
The Zoom event, organized through an account associated with his nonprofit, included about 250 participants in the United States, China and Europe.
On June 7, Zhou learned that the account had been suspended.
“We regret that a few recent meetings with participants both inside and outside of China were negatively impacted and important conversations were disrupted,” Zoom said in a statement to The New York Times about the incident. “It is not in Zoom’s power to change the laws of governments opposed to free speech. However, Zoom is committed to modifying its processes to further protect its users from those who wish to stifle their communications.”
In a statement to Axios, the company said it was simply complying with local laws, and had since restored the account.
“Just like any global company, we must comply with applicable laws in the jurisdictions where we operate,” Zoom’s statement said.
“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.”
China generally prohibits “free discussion” of the Tiananmen Square protests, according to Axios.
Zhou expressed his anger at Zoom’s action.
“I was shocked and disappointed over what happened,” he told The Times. “We can’t stand that an American company put Chinese-style restrictions on users in the U.S.”
In a statement submitted to Axios, which first reported the incident, Zhou and other organizers said they were “outraged by this act from Zoom, a U.S company.”
“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,” the statement said.
Other activists have complained about Zoom’s behavior in doing what appears to be China’s bidding, according to The Washington Post.
Lee Cheuk-yan, a union leader in Hong Kong, said a Zoom account he uses was shut down just before it was set to host a talk by a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist.
The Zoom account hosting a June 3 Tiananmen commemoration was deactivated as the event was unfolding, said former Tiananmen student protest leader Wang Dan, who lives in the U.S.
Wang pushed back against Zoom’s explanation that it must honor local Chinese laws.
“What about American values? It’s an American company,” Wang told The Post. “They should maintain a moral bottom line.”
Zhou said the fundamental issue to battle is China’s control of the internet.
“The Great Firewall enslaves the Chinese people. It is the fatal flaw for an open and free internet,” he told The Times.
“The best option is to tear down the Great Firewall.”
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