Zoom suspended the account of a U.S.-based activist group that arranged an event commemorating the anniversary of the Chinese government’s crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, citing “laws in the countries where we operate.”
The group Humanitarian China was set to commemorate the crackdown on May 31, 31 years after the protests that led to a violent crackdown by Chinese authorities believed to have killed thousands.
China heavily censors any discussions of the peaceful demonstrations and the government's reaction to it.
Zhou Fengsuo, a participant in the protests and founder of the group, told CNBC the account hosting the event was suspended on June 7, a week after the event, and has since been reinstated. Zoom confirmed to the network it suspended the account.
Zhou said the meeting had more than 250 active participants and more than 4,000 people streamed it.
“It seems possible ZOOM acted on pressure from the CCP (Communist Party of China) to shut down our account. If so, ZOOM is complicit in erasing the memories of the Tiananmen Massacre in collaboration with an authoritarian government,” he said in a statement.
“Like any global company, Zoom must comply with laws in the countries where we operate. We strive to limit actions taken to those necessary to comply with local law,” a Zoom spokesperson told CNBC. “We regret that a few recent meetings with participants both inside and outside of China were negatively impacted and important conversations were disrupted. It is not in Zoom’s power to change the laws of governments opposed to free speech.”
The spokesperson told CNBC the company is currently developing further options to protect conversations in meetings where some participants are subject to national or territorial communications restrictions but others are not, but did not offer further details.
The exact death toll of the crackdown on the student protests is unknown. Beijing’s official toll was only 200, while contemporaneous British diplomatic communications released in 2017 estimated at least 10,000 people were killed.