A bipartisan group of lawmakers including Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) have written a letter to Zoom CEO Eric Yuan asking for answers after the teleconferencing company disabled accounts of two U.S.-based activists who were commemorating the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. The disabling of the accounts came at the request of China’s communist government.
“We write with deep concern regarding reports that Zoom, a U.S.-based company, deactivated the accounts of two U.S.-based, pro-democracy Chinese activists after they held a Zoom meeting on the June 4th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre,” said the Friday letter. “Your company has admitted that it did so at the request of the Chinese government to comply with the laws of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), because some of the participants resided inside the PRC.”
Zhou Fengsuo, one of the two U.S-based activists, participated in the original Tiananmen Square protests as a student and has accused Zoom of collaborating with the Chinese regime, reports CNBC News.
“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,” said Zhou.
The death toll from the massacre is not known, but on the day of the crackdown, The New York Times reported student protesters as believing that “at least 500 people” were killed after Chinese troops rolled into the area.
In a blog post the previous day, Zoom revealed that it had taken “adverse actions” against three activists, two in the United States and one based in Hong Kong. Zoom made the decision after China informed them the Tiananmen Square meetings were “illegal in China” and demanded the company ban the meetings and terminate the accounts.
“Our response should not have impacted users outside of mainland China,” said the company, which explained that three accounts were terminated or suspended, but they have all since been reinstated.
The company also suggested that instead of shutting down the accounts, they should have blocked access to the meetings by country, a feature Zoom does not currently have at their disposal. The teleconferencing company plans to develop this technology in the coming days, and said that they won’t let requests from the Chinese government “impact anyone outside of mainland China” in the future.
Toward the end of the Senate’s letter to Zoom, the lawmakers requested the company answer questions about its relationship with China and the recent incident banning activists, including a request that Zoom identify the laws China cited and whether Zoom pushed back against them.
Lee Cheuk Yan, the Hong Kong-based activist, told NPR on Friday that his meeting was the third in a series of talks about authoritarianism in China.
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