A bipartisan group of 12 U.S. senators are demanding answers from Zoom Video Communications CEO Eric Yuan on his firm’s recent bowing to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) censorship demands.
Zoom issued a statement June 12 saying it suspended three accounts, including one in Hong Kong and two in the United States, following CCP requests in May, apparently in connection with video conferences commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.
The company said it subsequently reinstated the three accounts and will no longer suspend accounts when requested by the CCP, but the 12 senators, led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) want more answers.
“Your company has admitted that it did so at the request of the Chinese government to comply with the laws of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), because some of the participants resided inside the PRC,” the senators said in their June 12 letter to Yuan.
“Zoom also shut down the account of Hong Kong activist Lee Cheuk-yan, potentially for a similar reason. The PRC Government and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will go to great lengths to censor and disrupt activities they believe undermine their leadership and control of China.
“Such topics include the Tiananmen Square massacre, Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong, and more. Not content to silence those within their borders, the CCP frequently reaches abroad to target those who would speak up about the party’s abuses.
“In the past two years, American companies such as the NBA, Apple, and United Airlines have found themselves under immense pressure to submit to CCP demands for extraterritorial censorship, in exchange for the continued ability to do business within the PRC.”
In addition to Rubio and Wyden, the signers include Republican Sens. Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Democrat signers include Sens. Christopher Murphy of Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
The senators asked Yuan to respond to eight questions concerning the heart of the relationship between the San Jose, California-based video conferencing firm and the CCP:
- What PRC laws did Zoom determine it was in compliance with when deciding to terminate the accounts of U.S.-based human rights activists Zhou Fengsuo and Wang Dan? Please identify the specific sections of the specific laws.
- Why did Zoom terminate the accounts of Hong Kong-based labor activist Lee Cheukyan? Please describe the internal process that resulted in this decision.
- Specifically, which PRC or CCP organizations or officials made the requests to terminate the above accounts? What actions did Zoom take to push back?
- How many accounts has Zoom closed outside of the PRC in order to comply with PRC law, or in deference to the perceived political sensibilities of the PRC government or the CCP?
- Does Zoom routinely share data with the PRC government, and, if so, what kind of data does it share?
- What other requests have those or any other PRC, CCP, or affiliated organizations or officials made of Zoom related to access to account information, communications, or otherwise infringing upon the privacy of Zoom users inside of the United States? If such requests have been made, which state or party organizations specifically made those requests?
- Does Zoom have CCP branches or committees within the company’s PRC offices? If so, how many, and who are the branch or committee secretaries?
- Do any of the PRC-domiciled companies to which Zoom contracts its engineering work have internal CCP branches or committees? If so, how many, and who are the branch or committee secretaries?
Among the most sensitive of the eight questions are whether Zoom shares data with the Chinese government and if Zoom subcontractors have internal CCP entities within them.
The former question is especially dangerous for Yuan, as the U.S. government may already know the answer. Misleading the senators could pose legal jeopardy.
A Zoom spokesman who asked not to be named told The Epoch Times on June 15, “We appreciate the outreach we have received from various elected officials and look forward to engaging with them.”
The senators’ letter concluded by noting that “Zoom must be transparent and not allow foreign governments, such as the PRC government, to dictate the terms of usage.”
Yuan was asked about the issue earlier this month by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.).
Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc