VOA Chinese Interview with Chen GuangchenThe Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB www.cusib.org) and the independent BBG Watch (www.bbgwatch.com) website reported that blind Chinese legal activist and dissident Chen Guangcheng, who arrived today in the United States, had been secretly listening to Voice of America Mandarin shortwave radio broadcasts while he was in prison in China. Chen Guangcheng revealed this information in a telephone interview with the VOA Mandarin Service conducted from his hospital room in Beijing before he was allowed to leave for the United States. CUSIB reported this in a press release applauding Chen Guangcheng’s freedom.

In commenting on the VOA Mandarin Service interview with Chen Guangcheng, CUSIB Co-founder and Director Ted Lipien said: “We fully support VOA Mandarin and Cantonese radio broadcasting  to continue to shine the light of truth on human rights issues. We are gratified that members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) paid attention to  statements in support of the Voice of America from Chen Guangcheng and human rights campaigner Annette Lantos and restored funding for VOA Cantonese broadcasts and VOA radio broadcasts to Tibet, which the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) executive staff  wanted to terminate in October 2012. We were shocked to learn, however, that while Chen Guangcheng’s future was still hanging in the balance, IBB executives eliminated two hours of VOA Mandarin live radio broadcasts and replaced them with repeat programs without live newscasts. Creating a 17 hours VOA Mandarin radio news silence in China at such a critical time in U.S.-Chinese relations is inexcusable and this decision should be immediately reversed,” CUSIB Co-founder and Director Ted Lipien said.

Ted Lipien is a former VOA acting associate director and former BBG marketing executive.

BBG Watch has received a transcript of the May 10 interview, in which Chen Guangcheng reveals that he had managed to get hold of a shortwave radio while in prison and listened secretly to Voice of America Mandarin radio broadcasts. As far as BBG Watch could determine through web searches, the Voice of America English Service has not reported on Chen Guangcheng listening to VOA radio in prison, and neither have the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) executives and the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) Public Relations staff. The latest BBG Public Relations press release about BBG news coverage highlights VOA exclusive interview with the Eritrean President. “Inside VOA” website, which reports on VOA internal developments, had a story the VOA Mandarin Service interviews with the blind Chinese dissident but did not reveal that he was a listener to VOA radio while in prison. The BBG Public Relations staff did not include even this story in its coverage “Highlights.”

BBG and IBB executives working for IBB Director Richard Lobo, who was appointed by President Obama, may not want to publicize the news of Chen Guangcheng being a listener to Voice of America shortwave radio broadcasts, sources told BBG Watch. These officials have tried to terminate both VOA Mandarin and VOA Cantonese radio and satellite television broadcasts, but their plans were blocked first by the U.S. Congress in late 2011 and last month by BBG members themselves at a meeting in Miami. Until at least early this week, the BBG executive staff also failed to send a response to Annette Lantos who published an open letter to BBG members in early April urging them not to terminate VOA broadcasts to Tibet and China and to restore them to Russia.

Meanwhile, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R – CA) wrote a letter to the House Appropriations Committee complaining that the BBG/IBB executive staff was less than candid with him about changes in Voice of America Mandarin programming.

“The BBG also earlier this year told my office that ‘there are no planned reductions to VOA Mandarin in fiscal year 2013.’ That statement sidestepped the fact that Voice of America Mandarin was cut this month. (The same month that your Subcommittee appropriated over $25 million dollars to the BBG above their requested amount). VOA replaced two hours of daily live Mandarin radio with replay broadcasting. Additionally the BBG is refusing to allow a five minute live update at the start of the repeat segment which means there is now a 17 hour gap in VOA Mandarin radio news.”

Read more about Congressman Rohrabacher’s complaint.

BBG Watch is publishing the transcript of the May 10 phone VOA Mandarin Service telephone interview with Chen Guangcheng.

Chen Guangcheng on Information Flow and Listening to VOA

VOA China Branch reporter Ye Bing interviewed Mr. Chen Guangcheng over the phone Thursday (May 10) . The following is the translated transcript of the interview:

VOA: Are you getting a good flow of information?

Mr. Chen: it’s poor, very poor.

VOA: What is the main source of your information?

Mr. Chen: The main source is from the phone.

VOA: Through friends on the outside?

Mr. Chen: Right, what I’m told through my friends.

VOA: How do you listen to VOA?

Mr. Chen: Radio. But it is not very clear.

VOA: It is interfered, right?

Mr. Chen: Yes

VOA: What about when you were living back home?

Mr. Chen: At home we had nothing, everything, including the TV, was destroyed by the guards. I couldn’t obtain any information. The newspapers that the guards brought had to be taken with them when they left. They couldn’t leave them in the house. So I couldn’t get any information.

VOA: No information?

Mr. Chen: Correct, correct.

VOA: It might as well have been in prison?

Mr. Chen: (laughter) Yeah, in prison I could still watch TV or read the newspaper.

VOA: At the time, Ke Si (Mr. Chen’s daughter) was escorted by several guards when she went to school? For instance, could she bring some written materials home in her backpack?

Mr. Chen: She was searched every day when she came home. Every day when she left she was searched, when she got off from school they went through her entire backpack.

VOA: Why did they control her so tightly?

Mr. Chen: They feared that information would leak outside. They feared that information about the shameful way they treated me would be made known to the public. This is what they feared. So, whether it was the food that we bought on the street, or the vegetable we plucked from the garden, we had to hand it to them for inspection. They would look over it carefully.

VOA: How long has it been since you listened to our broadcast?

Mr. Chen: Since last year February 18th, I hadn’t heard VOA’s broadcast, up until I got out.

VOA: Up until the past few days?

Mr. Chen: Right, during this period I didn’t listen. Over one year, since February 18th last year.

VOA: Did they take away your radio?

Mr. Chen: Yes, they snatched away everything.

VOA: Before this, you always listened?  Did you often listen to us?

Mr. Chen: Yes, before February 18th, I always listened.

VOA: How was the reception?

Mr. Chen: Sometimes it was OK, other times it was unclear.

VOA: What was your favorite program?

Mr. Chen: I had many; I really liked “Windows on the World” and “Weekly Congressional Report.”

VOA: Any others?

Mr. Chen: I also liked the newscasts on the top of hours.  I think “Windows on the World” is very good, it’s really comprehensive. But I disliked the afternoon four o’clock hour, the long English teaching programming. One hour, nothing else. It’s very inappropriate.

VOA: The 4PM English teaching program?

Mr. Chen: Right. Before, before, wasn’t it 4:05PM to 5PM?

VOA: English teaching program, which is our Chinese Service’s English teaching broadcast program?

Mr. Chen: I think so.

VOA: Before your prison sentence, you frequently listened, right?

Mr. Chen: Yes, yes, yes. Even after I was put in prison, I still listened for a period of time (laughter).

VOA: You listened when you were in prison?

Mr. Chen: Yes. I figured out a way to get a radio. I got one after lots of efforts. In November of 2011, I started to listen. During that time period, even though I was surrounded by them, I was still able to get a lot of information.

VOA: Right now you use a radio to listen, right?

Mr. Chen: Right. But it’s unclear.

VOA: A short-wave radio?

Mr. Chen: Yes.

VOA: While in prison, you yourself figured out a way to listen?

Mr. Chen: Yeah, I figured out a way (laughter).

VOA: They (the guards) didn’t hear? They wouldn’t come watch you?

Mr. Chen: I did it (listen) in secret. How could they come watch me? They didn’t know, how could they watch me? (Laughter) Had they known, they certainly would have taken it away.

VOA: How did listening to our broadcasts help you?

Mr. Chen: Listening obviously helped me. At the very least, I was able to understand the state of societal development.

VOA: When you listened to our broadcasts did you ever hear reports about yourself?

Mr. Chen: Yes. (Laughter)

VOA: You heard them?

Mr. Chen: Yes.

VOA: At the time how did you feel?

Mr. Chen: I felt that no matter how hard one might try, information cannot be blocked.

VOA: What kind of effect did it have on you?

Mr. Chen: It gave me comfort. It gave me confidence, knowing that many people were paying attention.

VOA: At the time,  we, including myself, interviewed Wei Jing [Chen’s wife], during that time period to learn about her situation and your situation. We frequently did that.

Mr. Chen: But, I don’t want this part to be aired, (laughter), the part that I listened to VOA while in jail.

VOA: OK, no problem. We just wanted to learn about it.

Mr. Chen: Sure.   I’d like you to find out what is happening to my family. I really do not have any other channel. OK?

VOA: OK.


BBG Watch is also republishing the CUSIB press release:

For Immediate Release
May 19, 2012

The Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting  Applauds Chen Guangcheng’s Freedom

The Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB) extends a warm welcome to Chinese human rights legal activist Chen Guangcheng upon his arrival to the United States today.

CUSIB Executive Director Ann Noonan stated: “We are overjoyed that Chen and his wife and children have left China for the United States. We are grateful for every act of courage and kindness from all who worked for his freedom, especially the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) Mandarin and Cantonese  services whose journalists kept the spotlight on Chen. The vigilance of Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey for holding hearings on Capitol Hill, along with the vigilance of CUSIB Board Members, Jing Zhang and Reggie Littlejohn, focusing on the plight of this courageous blind activist, is especially appreciated.”

Ted Lipien, CUSIB Co-founder and Director stated: “While we are happy today for Chen and his immediate family, we realize that this is a bitter-sweet occasion, as other family members such as Chen’s mother continue to be exposed to oppression and retaliation by PRC government officials, and Chen’s nephew faces criminal charges.”

Shortly before departing for the U.S., Chen Guangcheng told the Voice of America  Mandarin Service in a telephone interview on May 10 that he had managed to listen to their  shortwave radio broadcasts even while he was in prison in China from 2006 to 2010.

In commenting on this VOA Mandarin Service news report, Ted Lipien stated: “We fully support VOA Mandarin and Cantonese radio broadcasting  to continue to shine the light of truth on human rights issues. We are gratified that members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) paid attention to  statements in support of the Voice of America from Chen Guangcheng and human rights campaigner Annette Lantos and restored funding for VOA Cantonese broadcasts and VOA radio broadcasts to Tibet, which the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) executive staff  wanted to terminate in October 2012. We were shocked to learn, however, that while Chen Guangcheng’s future was still hanging in the balance, IBB executives eliminated two hours of VOA Mandarin live radio broadcasts and replaced them with repeat programs without live newscasts. Creating a 17 hours VOA Mandarin radio news silence in China at such a critical time in U.S.-Chinese relations is inexcusable and this decision should be immediately reversed,” CUSIB Co-founder and Director Ted Lipien said.

The Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – www.cusib.org) 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 and works closely with the executive branch, Congress, and media to promote effective multi-channel delivery of news and information to overcome press censorship.

For further information, please contact:
Ann Noonan, co-founder and Executive Director
Tel. 646-251-6069

Ted Lipien, co-founder
Tel. 415-793-1642
You may also email us at: contact@cusib.org.

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