CUSIB’s Ann Noonan condemns targeting of dissidents’ children in China, defends RFA and VOA radio broadcasts

BBG Watch Commentary

CUSIB Executive Director Ann Noonan at BBG Feb. 2013 meeting

CUSIB Executive Director Ann Noonan at BBG's Feb. 2013 meeting

Ann Noonan, Executive Director of the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – cusib.org) gave an interview to Boxun.com, a Chinese website that covers international political news and human rights abuses in China, in which she condemned the targeting of dissidents’ children by the Chinese authorities. Noonan also defended Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Voice of America (VOA) Chinese radio programs which are facing reductions due to U.S. budget cuts, but also due to arbitrary decisions by the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), the executive arm of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the federal agency in charge of these broadcasts.

“We believe that radio broadcast resources are invaluable, especially for the poorer people who live in China and for those who live in the countryside, and we will continue fight for these broadcasts to be maintained by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the US federal agency that has been trying to cut them, reduce them, and minimize their importance,” Ann Noonan told Boxun.com. “We will continue to appeal to the U.S. Congress to maintain and expand these radio broadcasts to China,” Noonan added.

The Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting is a nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization working to strengthen free flow of uncensored news from the United States to countries with restricted and developing media environments. CUSIB supports journalism in defense of media freedom and human rights by the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Asia (RFA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio and TV Marti, Radio Sawa, Alhurra TV and other U.S. taxpayer-funded media programs for international audiences produced by the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

At a recent BBG meeting in Washington, Noonan made comments as a member of the public, in which she applauded members of the bipartisan BBG board, including Victor Ashe, Susan McCue and Michael Meehan, who are trying to reform the agency. She was at the same time critical of the IBB senior staff for resisting these reforms, mistreating employees, draining resources from programmers, cutting broadcasts and expanding its own bureaucracy. Speaking at the same meeting, Tim Shamble, president of the employee union, AFGE Local 1812, was also highly critical of senior IBB executives.

Another human rights activist interviewed by Boxun.com was a member of CUSIB’s Advisory Board, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers president Reggie Littlejohn. Women’s Rights Without Frontiers is a broad-based, international coalition that opposes forced abortion and sexual slavery in China. Littlejohn is also a strong defender of U.S. radio broadcasting to China, as many of the women her organization tries to help live in the countryside, come from poor families, and cannot afford Internet access or buy and install devices designed to counter Internet censorship by the Chinese authorities.

Zhang Anni

Zhang Anni, Photo courtesy of Human Rights in China

In her comments for Boxun.com, Ann Noonan was reacting specifically to events in China on Feb. 27, when police arrived at the Hupo Primary school in Hefei city and took Zhang Anni, the daughter of activist Zhang Lin, out of class and brought her back home, sparking an online campaign to allow Zhang Anni to return to school.

The incident and the subsequent clashes between Zhang Anni supporters and unidentified assailants as the school officials refused to allow her to return to class were reported by Radio Free Asia and Voice of America.

See: “Clashes as Activist’s Daughter Is Denied Schooling”, Radio Free Asia, April 8, 2013.

Women’s Rights Without Frontiers website also reported on the plight of Zhang Anni, “China: Ten-Year-Old Girl Detained, Denied Food and Water.”

Photos of Zhang Anni and Zhang Lin were provided by another Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting Advisory Board member Jing Zhang, founder of Women’s Rights in China human rights NGO.

Ann Noonan’s comments were reported in English on Boxun.com, “China:Ten-Year-Old Girl Detained, Starved” and in Chinese, link. Boxun.com website has millions of visitors each month despite attempts by Chinese authorities to block it. They also block VOA and RFA websites. CUSIB supports Internet outreach and Internet censorship circumvention efforts by the BBG. CUSIB believes, however, that IBB’s attempts to reduce radio broadcasts are misguided and hurt Chinese human rights activists. According to CUSIB, these cuts are also unnecessary, as much greater savings could be achieved by shrinking and reforming the IBB bureaucracy.

Prior to founding the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting, Ann Noonan was President of the New York Chapter of the Visual Artists Guild. In 1999, she also founded Free Church for China, an NGO which researches and documents religious persecution in the PRC. Noonan was also a Senior Advisor at the Laogai Research Foundation, an NGO founded by another CUSIB member, Harry Wu, to gather information on and raise public awareness of the Laogai system of prison labor camps in China. Ann Noonan has been active in promoting women’s rights and religious freedom worldwide.

Comments for Boxun.com by Ann Noonan

Chinese dissident Zhang Lin

Chinese dissident Zhang Lin, photo courtesy of Women's Rights in China

“My name is Ann Noonan and I am the Executive Director of the Committee for US International Broadcasting. I met Zhang Lin in 1998 in New York City. I remember that he was part of the Coalition for Pro-Democracy in China. On February 25, 1998, we held A Salute to Democracy in China and in New York Dinner.

New York City Former Mayor Ed Koch was the guest speaker, and many prestigious leaders attended. Among them were Laogai Research Foundation’s Harry Wu, and New York’s Central Labor Council former Secretary Ted Jacobsen.

Months later, we learned that Zhang Lin had returned to China and was arrested. In New York, we always refer to Zhang Lin as a tireless freedom fighter. When I served as the President of Free Church for China, we were sure to keep Zhang Lin’s profile in the public eye.

Most recently, we have learned that Zhang Lin’s daughter, Anni, has been singled out by China’s authorities. She has been humiliated by authorities who removed her from her school, detained her at the local police station for many hours, and have not allowed her to return to school.

Like many Americans, I am deeply concerned that any child should be denied an education because of the actions or inactions of their parents.

We at the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting have been fighting for media freedom for journalists who report on stories like these and stories about human rights abuse. When we recently learned that Voice of America radio broadcast services have been reduced using the excuse of sequestration, we raised our voices in Washington, DC and opposed any attempt to silence radio broadcasts to China.

We believe that radio broadcast resources are invaluable, especially for the poorer people who live in China and for those who live in the countryside, and we will continue fight for these broadcasts to be maintained by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the US federal agency that has been trying to cut them, reduce them, and minimize their importance. We will continue to appeal to the US Congress to maintain and expand these radio broadcasts to China.

I’d like to say “Hi!” to Zhang Lin’s daughter, Anni, and to let her and all of your listeners know that the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting hopes Anni’s story will be heard by girls and young women throughout the Untied States. We believe they will give you great support and friendship.

I hope they let you go back to school so you can study and learn as much as you want, and when you are an educated woman, I hope you will be able to use these experiences to make your country and our world a safer place for children and families to live.”

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