Zoom disabled the accounts of a group of Chinese dissidents in the US after they used a video conference to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Zoom’s role in shutting down the meeting, which was hosted and organised by activists in the US, but saw participants dial in from China, will add to fears about the platform’s security and how it will respond to government censorship requests.
In response to previous criticism, Zoom has added some security measures, and has pledged to release a transparency report by July.
The annual commemoration was hosted by a group of Chinese activists in the US, including Wang Dan, one of the most prominent leaders of the pro-democracy student movement that was massacred by the Chinese army in Tiananmen Square on June 4th, 1989.
Mr Wang’s team shared screenshots with the Financial Times of his Zoom call being cancelled twice and two of his team’s paid Zoom accounts being disabled. The cancellations started just as the meetings were due to begin on the morning of June 4th in the US, where Mr Wang is based.
Zoom later suggested to the South China Morning Post that the Tiananmen commemoration had violated local laws, saying that "when a meeting is held across different countries, the participants within those countries are required to comply with their respective local laws".
Zoom did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
There are no Chinese laws against memorialising the Tiananmen massacre or criticising China’s ruling party, although Beijing has punished citizens commemorating Tiananmen by charging them with “inciting subversion of state power”, or the catch-all charge of “provoking quarrels”.
"31 years ago, we were on the streets fighting the Chinese Communist party police; today, these kinds of confrontations have shifted to the realm of cyber space," wrote Mr Wang on Facebook. "Through destroying freedom of speech online, the CCP seriously threatens freedom of speech and democracy globally."
Mr Wang’s team attributed the cancellations to hacking attempts or orders from the Chinese Communist party. Beijing has always sought to quell discussion of the Tiananmen Square massacre, although previously focused on its own territory.
“The memorial events for June 4 massacre. . .impair the CCP regime’s legitimacy. Hacking such an online memorial meeting would do nothing beneficial to any other people or organisations except the CCP, especially its top leaders,” said a member of Mr Wang’s team when asked as to the motives behind the attacks.
– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2020