Chicago Sun-Times: Kinzinger wants Congress to boycott Zoom for caving to China over Tiananmen Square memorials

Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s call is sparked by Zoom going along with the Chinese government’s request to block the accounts of activists marking the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said he wants Congress to stop using Zoom, calling for a boycott because of potential cybersecurity issues and the company’s decision to comply with the Chinese government’s request to block the accounts of activists marking the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Kinzinger’s drive to not conduct any federal business on Zoom was a factor in his deciding not to make a video appearance Thursday on the Chicago Sun-Times “At the Virtual Table” show.

The Sun-Times used Zoom, a video conferencing tool skyrocketing in popularity because of the COVID-19 pandemic, to host the show, with the content available for viewing on Facebook Live. Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington and I are co-hosts.

In May 1989, as History.com recounts, “nearly a million Chinese, mostly young students, crowded into central Beijing to protest for greater democracy and call for the resignations of Chinese Communist Party leaders deemed too repressive. On June 4, 1989, “Chinese troops and security police stormed through Tiananmen Square, firing indiscriminately into the crowds of protesters.”

According to estimates from reporters and Western diplomats on the scene, “at least 300, and perhaps thousands” of protesters were killed.

Kinzinger in a statement said during this pandemic, “reliance on video conferencing has been critical in staying connected,” and though Zoom use is booming, “I have become increasingly concerned by the platform’s censoring on behalf of the Chinese government, as well as security vulnerabilities.

“Earlier this month, we learned that several pro-democracy activists in the United States and Hong Kong had their Zoom accounts shut down for sharing videos and hosting commemorative video-vigils on the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing.”

Kinzinger said given “the availability of other video platforms, federal business should not be conducted on this platform until these concerns can be alleviated.

“In the interest of security, we have to recognize our vulnerabilities, and in the interest of free speech, we have to take action when that freedom is threatened.”

Kinzinger’s office arranged to join the Sun-Times show by phone, but as it turned out, he did not appear at all because of votes. Kinzinger spokesman Maura Gillespie said the office will not use Zoom. “If the congressman is invited to do a virtual event that is using Zoom, we try to find an alternate option.

“Last night, the congressman’s voting time directly conflicted with the virtual interview for ‘At the Table,’ so he was unable to call in and participate.”

Zoom admitted on June 11 that in June and May the company went along with Chinese government requests to block Zoom accounts where details about public June 4th commemoration meetings were to be discussed.

In April, Zoom said in a blog post that the explosion of use found the company grappling with new issues. “We did not design the product with the foresight that, in a matter of weeks, every person in the world would suddenly be working, studying, and socializing from home. We now have a much broader set of users who are utilizing our product in a myriad of unexpected ways, presenting us with challenges we did not anticipate when the platform was conceived.”

Following the Tiananmen Square related blocking, the company said it has changed its policies, stating in a June 11 blog post, “We suspended or terminated the host accounts, one in Hong Kong SAR and two in the U.S. We have reinstated these three host accounts.”

Kinzinger is a member of the House GOP China Task Force, created last May in the wake of China’s lack of cooperation and transparency in dealing with the pandemic, which originated in China. He has legislation pending pressuring the Chinese to be more transparent in dealing with U.S. intellectual property, manufactured goods and internet issues.

 

The original article can be found on the Chicago Sun-Times website here.