Life Tech Zoom admits it shut meetings following China request

Zoom admits it shut meetings following China request

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Video-conferencing giant Zoom says it suspended user accounts and ended meetings linked to commemorating the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre after the Chinese government demanded it do so.

The Humanitarian China group said its account was shut just days after the event, which was attended by about 250 people including some activists who called in from China.

The account was later re-activated.

Zoom said it did not provide any user information or meeting content to the Chinese government, adding it would not allow further requests from China to impact users outside the country in the future.

The company’s statement comes after it temporarily shut three accounts belonging to activists, one of whom is based in Hong Kong and two in the United States.

US-based Humanitarian China founder Zhou Fengsuo said his account was suspended after holding a Zoom event to commemorate the 31st anniversary of China’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square. The event was joined by viewers based in mainland China.

Zoom said the Chinese government had notified it about four large planned commemoration meetings that were being publicised on social media. The authorities demanded they terminate the events and linked accounts, it added.

taiwan tiananmen
‘Tank Man’, a public art work that commemorates the Tiananmen Square massacre, on display in Taipei, Taiwan. Photo: Getty

Zoom ended three of those meetings and temporarily suspended the host accounts as it is currently unable to remove specific participants from a meeting or block participants from a certain country from joining a meeting, the company said.

California-based Zoom, said it left the last meeting “undisturbed” as it did not have any participants from mainland China. It has now reinstated the accounts.

The company said it was developing technology to enable it to remove or block at the participant level based on geography, and would publish an updated global policy on June 30.

“This will enable us to comply with requests from local authorities when they determine activity on our platform is illegal within their borders,” it said.

“However, we will also be able to protect these conversations for participants outside of those borders where the activity is allowed.”

Wang Dan, a US-based dissident and exiled Tiananmen Square student leader whose account was also shut down, said he was shocked to hear Zoom admit it had interrupted their meetings. His June 3 event with about 200 participants was deactivated midstream, he said.

“Zoom compiled with China’s request, preventing us from going about our lives smoothly. It cannot get away with just a statement. We shall continue to use legal means and public opinion to ask Zoom to take responsibility for its mistake,” he said.

-with agencies