Humanitarian China, an organization based in California that provides “relief for political prisoners and activists” in China, said in a statement that it was not able to access its account on Sunday, a week after it held the virtual meeting. The group said more than 250 people worldwide joined the Zoom conference, while others streamed it on social media.
“The Zoom account used for this conference displayed a message that it had been shut down,” the organization said. “Zoom has not responded to our requests for an explanation.”
“A significant proportion of attendees were from China,” the group said in its statement. “Our conference provided many the opportunity to connect with activists abroad for the first time.”
Zoom confirmed to CNN Business on Wednesday that it reactivated the “US-based account” involved in the matter. In a statement released Thursday, the company added that it “must comply with laws in the countries where we operate.”
“We strive to limit actions taken to those necessary to comply with local law. Our platform is increasingly supporting complex, cross-border conversations, for which the compliance with the laws of multiple countries is very difficult,” the company said. “We regret that a few recent meetings with participants both inside and outside of China were negatively impacted and important conversations were disrupted. It is not in Zoom’s power to change the laws of governments opposed to free speech.”
Humanitarian China said that it was “outraged” that Zoom, a US company, appeared to have acted according to Chinese law in shutting down the organization’s account. In its statement, the group accused Zoom of being “complicit in erasing the memories of the Tiananmen Massacre in collaboration with an authoritarian government.”
Zhou confirmed that his account had been reactivated, but said his team wanted answers on why its service was suspended.
“We haven’t heard from Zoom. We want to know why,” Zhou told CNN Business.
It remains unclear whether Chinese authorities played a role in the episode. A spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that she had not “heard about that and [had] no information to offer.” “This is not a diplomatic issue,” the spokesperson told reporters at a media briefing.
The company has utilized Chinese developers from its onset — its research and development department in China has over 700 employees — a practice that Zoom warned in its annual report “could expose us to market scrutiny regarding the integrity of our solution or data security features.”
He has suggested Denver, Ohio or Virginia as possible sites for a relocated Zoom research and development center. “If things get worse, we do have a plan,” said Yuan.
— CNN’s Isaac Yee, Ben Westcott and Jon Sarlin contributed to this report.