China news: Zoom users use app as a way around the ‘Great Firewall of China’

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However, the window may be closing as on Friday, Zoom said it suspended three accounts of US and Hong Kong activists who attempted to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown, though the accounts have since been restored. Beijing heavily regulates the internet, arguing this is a requirement for social stability. Zhou Fengsuo, US-based founder of Humanitarian China, had his account suspended, he said: “For us, the biggest challenge has been how to reach people within China because of the firewall, and Zoom for a while looked like a ray of hope.”

Since January 1, the app has been downloaded 5.4 million times from Apple’s China store.

This is 11 times more than in the same period in 2019.

Xiao Meili, a feminist activist who held a Zoom talk on the #MeToo movement in April said: “Zoom is not the only software, but we feel it’s rather more accessible.

“Before, some friends recommended Tencent conference … but everyone would feel like you shouldn’t say anything that’s slightly sensitive.”

In addition to certain content being censored, several popular sites and apps are blocked in mainland China.

This includes Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, the BBC, Reuters and Whatsapp.

New York-based Lu Pin had feminist accounts shut down by authorities in 2018, she said there were few alternatives to Zoom.

She said: “You don’t have to climb the firewall, people in China and outside of China both can connect to it.

“This is not a multiple-choice question.

“If you’re a Chinese person, if you don’t use this, what will you use?”

It is understood underground churches have attempted to make use of Zoom to evade censors.

In 1997, the Ministry of Public Security took the first steps to regulate the internet saying: “Individuals are prohibited from using the Internet to: harm national security; disclose state secrets; or injure the interests of the state or society.


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“Users are prohibited from using the Internet to create, replicate, retrieve, or transmit information that incites resistance to the PRC (People’s Republic of China) Constitution, laws, or administrative regulations; promoting the overthrow of the government or socialist system; undermining national unification; distorting the truth, spreading rumours, or destroying social order; or providing sexually suggestive material or encouraging gambling, violence, or murder.

“Users are prohibited from engaging in activities that harm the security of computer information networks and from using networks or changing network resources without prior approval.”

China was first connected to the internet in May 1989.

It was not until April 20 1994, that China gained permanent internet connection.

Zoom admitted it made errors in banning users for Tiananmen Square posts.

According to Forbes, it has since said it will “not allow requests from the Chinese government to impact anyone outside of mainland China.”

It added: “Zoom is developing technology over the next several days that will enable us to remove or block at the participant level based on geography.

“This will enable us to comply with requests from local authorities when they determine activity on our platform is illegal within their borders; however, we will also be able to protect these conversations for participants outside of those borders where the activity is allowed.”

After this update, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley told Zoom CEO Eric Yuan to “pick a side” between the US and China.

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