(TibetanReview.net, Jun14’20) – More than a dozen US lawmakers have sought to take the California-based teleconferencing company Zoom to task on Jun 12 after it admitted suspending the accounts of three Chinese activists at Beijing’s request. Zoom is owned by its Chinese immigrant CEO Eric Yuan and has operations in his country of origin.
Zoom said Jun 1 that it had deactivated the accounts of U.S-based, pro-democracy activists Zhou Fengsuo and Wang Dan, and Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Lee Cheuk-Yan at the request of the Chinese government after they held meetings using the online media platform in conjunction with the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.
Zoom claimed that the closures were necessary to “comply with local law” because some of the participants resided inside China.
“We regret that a few recent meetings with participants both inside and outside of China were negatively impacted and important conversations were disrupted,” the Mandarin Service of rfa.org Jun 12 quoted Zoom as saying in a statement. “It is not in Zoom’s power to change the laws of governments opposed to free speech.”
However this was neither the first time nor the only issue US lawmakers have about Zoom and they questioned company’s other recent actions and acquiescence to China which they said raised serious concerns about its data practices.
“We write with deep concern” regarding the blocking of meetings and suspension of accounts of the activists at the request of the Chinese government, the report quoted a dozen senators representing both the Republican and Democratic parties as saying in a letter to Eric Yuan.
They were reported to have demanded answers to a long list of questions, including the names of the Chinese organizations or officials who made the requests to terminate the accounts, what actions Zoom took to push back the requests, and the number of accounts Zoom had closed outside of China in order to comply with Chinese law.
The letter to Yuan by the senators led by Republican Marco Rubio was also reported to have asked whether “Zoom routinely share[s] data with the PRC Government, and, if so, what kind of data does it share.”
Zoom is said to be widely used in China as well, unlike many other internet giants which remain banned in it for refusing to comply with Beijing’s censorship demands.
A separate letter to Yuan by Republican Senator Josh Hawley has said Zoom should “choose a side: American principles and free-speech, or short-term global profits and censorship.”
Greg Walden, the top Republican on the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, have also sent a letter to Yuan, demanding answers to another set of questions.
Wang Dan, a US-based dissident and exiled student leader of the crushed 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, has said Zoom was an American company, “and as such should first abide by the laws of the United States, not the laws of China.”
“Freedom of expression is protected under US law.”
Wang was reported to be considering taking legal action against the company.
In the meanwhile Zoom has said the accounts of the three activists have been reinstated, “and going forward, we will have a new process for handling similar situations.”