Outstanding reporting on Chen Guangcheng’s story by RFA and VOA is unnoticed by Broadcasting Board of Governors

Chen as Tank Man - 2011 Christmas Card to Free Blind Chinese Human Rights Activist Chen Guangcheng

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) executives and public relations specialists should be letting everyone know about outstanding reporting by Radio Free Asia (RFA) and the Voice of America (VOA) on the plight of Chinese blind activist Chen Guangcheng, but strangely they have remained silent.

The BBG public relations office issued a few days ago a press release announcing that “VOA Launches English Learning For Vietnamese” and earlier they bragged that OMG! Meiyu, Voice of America’s trendy Chinese-English video blog, is attracting new fans at the iTunes store.

But when it comes to announcing real news-generating coverage and journalistic achievements by VOA and RFA in reporting to China, there has been a total silence.

Perhaps, this may explain why.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors and its International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) executives have just imposed a 17 hours VOA radio news silence in China by replacing two hours of live VOA Mandarin radio broadcasts with repeat programs without live news. Radio listeners in China now have to wait 17 hours between live VOA Mandarin newscasts.

This change was imposed while Chen Guangcheng is still not permitted to leave China. Earlier, the same BBG and IBB executive staffers tried to completely eliminate VOA Mandarin and Cantonese radio and TV broadcasts. They would have succeeded if their plans were not blocked, first in Congress, and later by BBG members themselves.

They still, however, try to downplay the importance of VOA and RFA broadcasts and real news reporting to China, particularly via shortwave radio.

The BBG public relations specialists have ignored Chen’s statement made in a phone interview that he is listening to VOA Mandarin radio program in his hospital room in Beijing. This information was not worth a press release, even though USA Today reported a few that Chen Guangcheng was inspired to become a human rights activist by listening to the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

In a telephone interview with VOA China Branch reporter Ye Bing on Monday, Chen noted that he had listened to 30 minutes of the Sunday night (Beijing time, Sunday morning EDT) VOA Mandarin live news program which extensively featured information pertaining to his case, then expressed his gratitude to VOA for drawing international attention to his plight. When asked how he managed to access the broadcast, Chen mischievously answered: “There’s always a way.”

Several VOA and RFA employees have provided BBG Watch with information about their extensive coverage of the Chen Guangcheng’s story.

Radio Free Asia (RFA)

All four RFA/China services have provided coverage of the Chen story, with saturation reporting by Mandarin and Cantonese. Mandarin’s interviews with Chen were picked up by Reuters for two days in a row. In addition to intensive coverage of Chen on the current affairs APR programs, Mandarin feature programs “Journey of the Soul” and “Weekend Teahouse” explored in-depth the issues involved in the Chen story. Mandarin call-in program Democracy Salon devoted two entire shows having guest commentators recounting Chen’s work and answering caller questions about Chen. Call-in hosts on Hotline and Voices of the People answered caller questions on the latest on Chen. Mandarin stringers all over the world reported reactions to the story from Berlin to London to Toronto.

Here are the translations of just some of the listeners’ quotes and thoughts from inside China:

RFA Cantonese:

1. Nickname “Little citizen” from Guangzhou: The case of Chen Guangsheng indicates that the more the Communist wants to maintain stability, the more the society becomes instable. The whole system (of the Communist regime) should reflect themselves. The regime would be given up finally.

2. Mr. Zhang from Zhuhai, Guangdong: I heard the news of Chen Guangsheng from RFA programs. Many other overseas radio including a radio program in Russia also comment on Chen. It is a shame for the (Chinese ) government..

3. Mr. Li from Jiangsu: Chen Guangsheng is not against the Communist. He just wants to speak out for the unfairness and injustice. He doesn’t want to stay silent. However, the source of the unfairness and injustice is from the Communist government. Then Chen becomes a thorn in the Communist’s side.

4. Mr. Chen from Shanghai: The most terrible thing is to persecute a blind person, even his whole family. It is comforting that there are some Chinese people who have the consciences such as Guo Yushan and Zengzhu, stand up for him. Wang Lejun and Chen Guangsheng are totally different kind of persons but the same they have no way out so they went to the US Embassy.

5. Mr. Huang from Zhengjiang, Guangdong: It is a failure of the Chinese government to maintain stability. They spend 60 million yuan to surveillance Chen Guangsheng but Chen still could escape. Money is not everything.

6. Mr. She from Guangzhou: I feel very sad as a Chinese. Many people including him really want to see Chen Guangsheng can finally go to the US, not stay in China.

7. Mr. Wang from Guangxi: The case of Chen Guangsheng becomes a very hot topic among the students at Guangxi University. However, we just have very little information about Chen’s case. Many students got rid of the internet firewall to learn the truth. However, some student still do not understand why a blind person can get so much international concern.

RFA Mandarin:

From Hotline 5/8.

Caller from Hebei province: Many Chinese audience would question China’s official media’s report on Chen Guangcheng. They would ask if Chen is an ordinary blind person. Why he can get into the U.S. embassy to China? …Foreign media may not be 100 percent fair and balanced when reporting Chen’s case but they are no doubt more credible than those of Chinese official media on this matter.

Caller from Jiangxi province: Chen’s case could be a test for Sino-U.S. relations. It may test how much they can tolerate each other.

Caller from Tianjin.: It is very important to pay attention to Chen’s case. It is equally important to know how Chen’s case became such a crisis.

From 5/3 Hotline

Caller from Hubei province.: I want to thank those who helped Chen escape to freedom. Chen is a role model of all blind people who stand up for their rights.

Caller from Guangdong province: The name Chen Guangcheng has become sensitive words in China’s government controlled internet. Internet users have to alter the words to avoid their message being blocked.

Caller from Fujian province: I heard the story from RFA’s APR news that Chen Guangcheng has successfully escaped to the U.S. embassy. I am thrilled to learn about it and I want to congratulate him on this.

From 5/8 VOP

Caller from Guangdong province: I wish Chinese government keep its promise to allow Chen Guangcheng to go abroad. But if Chinese government broke its promise, it will ruin its credibility. Rights groups and U.S. congress would blame the Obama administration and Chen Guangcheng will be sent back to his hometown. It would be a disaster for the three parties and Chinese government would be the biggest loser.

Caller from Hubei province: Chen Guangcheng is a good person. He has been mistreated. I hope Chinese government prosecutes the outlaws who involved in Chen’s case. If Chen didn’t seek the U.S. government for help, then who else could help him? Only the western democratic governments can bring justice back to Chen.

From 5/7 VOP

Caller from Shanxi province: It is totally understandable that a decent person as Chen Guangcheng who sacrificed his own well-being for others was eventually helped by other noble people to escape to safety. I wish Chen a better life in the U.S.

From 5/8 Salon

Caller from Shandong province: Chinese official media provide so little information on Chen Guangcheng, only saying that Chen is now in hospital and he can apply for studying abroad via normal channel. I just want to say in regard to Chen’s case that when a gentleman has to deal with a rogue, it is the gentleman that always loses.

Caller from Jiangsu province: We are truly thrilled to learn that Chen Guangcheng has escaped from captivity and we are also puzzled as how can a blind person make such an escape?

RFA/Mandarin is on the air Beijing time:

11:00 pm – 6:00 am 7:00 – 8:00 am 11:00 am – 3:00 pm

Voice of America (VOA)

VOA China Branch has reported extensively on Mr. Chen’s fight against injustices in recent years, especially after he escaped from house arrest and took refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in late April. To date, reporter Ye Bing has interviewed Mr. Chen four times since last Thursday (03 May). His reports have been cited by the Associated Press and The Washington Post.

03 May: In a ten-minute interview aired on a live China Branch radio broadcast on May 3, Chen Guangcheng told VOA reporter Ye Bing that he was visited by a high-level Chinese official who, in addition to bringing a gift of flowers, issued assurances that justice will be meted out in accordance with the law if Chen’s story of abuses proves true.

07 May: Chen Guangcheng expressed serious concern for the fate of his nephew, Chen Kegui, and called on the outside world to closely follow the case as it developed. Before the line was disconnected, Mr. Chen noted that he had listened to 30 minutes of the previous night’s Mandarin news show.

08 May: Mr. Chen told reporter Ye Bing that he has not been allowed to meet with any of his friends, family members, and supporters attempting to visit him in his Beijing hospital room. Mr. Chen reported that he brought the issue up with a government official, who in turn said that due to the sensitivity of the case, it would be best if he did not see visitors for the time being.

09 May: Mr. Chen refuted media reports that he has finished the process of passport application, saying that he has not been given an opportunity to take any steps in the application process such as filing paperwork or taking a passport photo. Mr. Chen also said that Chinese authorities have charged his sister-in-law with sheltering a criminal and threatened her with imminent detainment. The wife of Chen Guangcheng’s nephew, who has been missing since 26 April, was also sought by authorities and threatened with arrest if she did not appear to sign unknown documents within 24 hours, he said.

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