Video conference app Zoom closed the account of exiled dissidents in the US after using the platform to host a forum about Beijing's violent crackdown on activists at Tiananmen Square in 1989.
The conference on May 31 saw attendees dialing in from China to attend to testimony from a number of individuals connected to the June 4 protests, including the mother of a vanquished protester, a Beijing native detained for 17 years for his involvement, and several fugitive student leaders.
Organizers discovered on Sunday that the paid Zoom account they established for the conference was deactivated, said Zhou Fengsuo, a US-based human rights activist and president of Humanitarian China
A comment from Zoom, which is accessible from within China without a VPN, mentioned that the action had been taken because attendees from China who joined the meeting had breached "local legislation."
It said, “Just like any global company, we must comply with applicable laws in the jurisdictions where we operate,” a company spokesperson said. “When a meeting is held across different countries, the participants within those countries are required to comply with their respective local laws.”
The firm did not respond to requests to shed some light on what laws had been breached and whether it had decided to disable the account after Chinese authorities contacted.By Wednesday, Zoom had reactivated the account, the spokesperson said, without giving a reason for why it did so.
After the account was disabled, its owners approached Zoom to request a justification and propel the firm to reimburse their transaction or reinstate the account
The three-hour conference marking the 31st anniversary of the June 4 crackdown – in which hundreds, possibly more than 1,000, were killed – drew about 250 participants, said Zhou, a leader of the protests.
He said the planners opted to use Zoom to include people who might not otherwise have exposure to knowledge about June 4, which, along with the weeks of pro-democracy protests that led to the military crackdown, is a highly sensitive subject in China.
Organisers tried to avoid the attention of China’s authorities by publicising the event on platforms like WeChat, China’s most widely used messaging platform, only two days before it was to take place.
The event marked the first time so many high-profile figures with direct ties to the 1989 pro-democracy movement had come together in one space, who kicked off the conference by playing?The Wound of History, a Chinese song written to commemorate the June 4 movement.
Other speakers included Zhang Xianling, a member of Tiananmen Mothers, a group of human rights activists led by mothers of protesters believed to have died in the crackdown.
The Zoom event featured pre-recorded testimony from Dong Shengkun, a Beijing resident who spent 17 years in prison for his participation in attempts by local workers to block the arrival of troops bearing down on the Tiananmen protesters in 1989.
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