Video conferencing giant Zoom suspended the account of a group of Chinese activists based in the United States after holding a meeting on the platform to commemorate the crackdown on Tiananmen Square.
The Humanitarian China group said its report was closed a few days after the event, which was attended by around 250 people, including activists who called from China.
Zoom claimed that the account was closed to comply with “local laws”.
The account was subsequently reactivated.
“When holding a meeting in different countries, participants within those countries are required to comply with their respective local laws,” said Zoom in a note sent by e-mail to the news.
“We aim to limit the actions we take to those necessary to comply with local laws and continuously review and improve our process on these issues,” says the statement.
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Zoom, which saw a sudden and massive increase in users due to coronavirus blockages, was already facing a thorough check on its security and privacy measures. Among the problems was the so-called “Zoombombing” – in which uninvited guests intrude on meetings, sometimes posting racist, violent or explicit content.
A “secret” event
The humanitarian China video meeting, held on May 31, was intended to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the crackdown on Tiananmen Square in China, which is typically seen on June 4.
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According to a report from the South China Morning Post, the speakers included the mother of a killed demonstrator, a 17-year-old Beijing resident imprisoned for his participation and several student leaders who had been exiled.
“The event marked the first time that so many high-profile personalities with direct ties to the 1989 democratic movement came together in one space,” Zhou Fengsuo, president of humanitarian China, who was himself a leading student of the Tiananmen protests, he told the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
“We had to keep it secret,” he said.
China’s humanitarian Zoom account was closed on June 7, the group said. “I am very angry that even in this country, in the United States … we have to be prepared for this type of censorship,” Zhou told SCMP.
Another Tiananmen activist said he had been excluded from Zoom since May 22 when he tried to host an online discussion on China’s influence around the world. Lee Cheuk-yan told the AFP news agency that his account was suspended before the speech began.
“I asked Zoom if it was political censorship, but he never replied,” said Lee, who is president of the Hong Kong Alliance – the organizer of the annual Hong Kong vigil for the victims of the Tiananmen crackdown. .
He said the group had held two previous Zoom lectures without problems.
Military crackdown on protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in the spring of 1989 occurred after students and workers occupied the square in a massive peaceful protest against democracy. Estimates of the death toll among protesters range from several hundred to a maximum of 10,000.
The anniversary of the crackdown is a very sensitive issue in China, probably the most sensitive day of the year for the Chinese internet. Anniversary content is often blocked or censored. Reports on the event are also heavily censored in China.