Zoom said on Wednesday that it had temporarily shut down a US account belonging to activists who held an online discussion to mark the anniversary of China’s 1989 crackdown on peaceful protesters in Tiananmen Square, raising alarm about free speech.
US-based rights campaigners turned to Zoom, which has become a way of life for many people during the coronavirus lockdown, to connect more than 250 people to remember the brutal crushing of the weeks-long protests on June 4.
The group, Humanitarian China, said it had brought in numerous participants from inside China, which has tried to erase all memory of the bloodshed, and that its paid Zoom account was shut down without explanation one week later.
The shutdown was first reported by the news site, Axios.
Zhou Fengsuo, a co-founder of the group who was number one on Beijing’s most-wanted list after the Tiananmen crackdown, told AFP that the Zoom account was re-activated on Wednesday.
Zoom acknowledged that it had shut down and restored the account.
“Just like any global company, we must comply with applicable laws in the jurisdictions where we operate,” a Zoom spokesperson 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.”
The activists voiced outrage, saying that the company may have been under direct pressure from China’s communist leaders.
“If so, Zoom is complicit in erasing the memories of the Tiananmen Massacre in collaboration with an authoritarian government,” Humanitarian China said in a statement.
It called Zoom an “essential” resource in reaching audiences inside China, which enforces rigorous censorship.
Beijing has developed the so-called “Great Firewall” that is designed to keep out news that could be damaging to the leadership.
Authorities go to extraordinary lengths each year to ban commemorations of the Tiananmen massacre, in which the military killed hundreds of unarmed protesters – by some estimates, more than 1,000 – who had packed the capital to seek reform.