Zoom shut down U.S. activists’ account after Tiananmen commemoration, citing Chinese law

 Employees react as public stock trading on Zoom Video Communications Inc. begins on April 18, 2019.
Employees react on Wall Street as public stock trading on Zoom Video Communications Inc. begins April 18, 2019.
(Kena Betancur / Getty Images)

Zoom, the videoconferencing technology provider, has acknowledged it shut down the account of a group of prominent Chinese activists based in the U.S. after they held an event on the platform honoring the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Zhou Fengsuo, founder of U.S. based nonprofit Humanitarian China, held the event May 31 on a paid Zoom account associated with Humanitarian China, according to a statement from the organization. Axios first reported the account’s suspension.

Zhou was a student leader of the historic protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. About 250 people joined the anniversary event, including other protest organizers and parents of protesters who were killed. On Sunday, the Zoom account associated with Humanitarian China displayed a notice saying it had been shut down.

“Zoom is complicit in erasing the memories of the Tiananmen Massacre in collaboration with an authoritarian government,” Humanitarian China said in its statement.

Asked about the suspension, a Zoom representative provided a statement by email: “Just like any global company, we must comply with applicable laws in the jurisdictions where we operate. 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.”

Zoom said Wednesday afternoon it had reactivated the U.S.-based account.

Zhou confirmed the account had been reactivated but said Humanitarian China has not heard directly from Zoom, which has not responded to its repeated requests for an explanation.

“This is not acceptable. How many accounts are targeted during this anniversary of Tiananmen Massacre?” Zhou said in an email. “We want answers.”

Zoom exploded in popularity in the spring as in-person social gatherings, corporate meetings, conferences and religious services were halted amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With the rise in users came backlash, as a number of security vulnerabilities in the product were revealed and researchers questioned whether its relationships with subsidiary companies in China could give the country’s government undue leverage.