25 Years Ago: VOA Has Won the Ear of China
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the nationwide, student-led democracy movement in China, and the subsequent June 4th military crackdown in Beijing. To commemorate the student movement, CDT is posting a series of original news articles from 1989, beginning with the death of Hu Yaobang on April 15 and continuing through the tumultuous spring. The full series can be read here.
The real news does not travel fast in this Communist country, at least through official channels. So when the streets here swell with protesters, people all over China tune in the Voice of America.
During the turmoil of recent weeks, people in offices, factories and schools throughout China have clustered by the radio to listen to the latest episodes in the saga of student protest. At Beijing University, students huddle around posters that report the latest Voice bulletins, and the other day, hundreds of students crowded around a dormitory window listening to a dispatch.
The United States Government radio network hardly competes with China’s Central People’s Broadcasting station, which probably has the largest number of listeners in the world. But during times of unrest, China’s news organizations tend to be silent about what many Chinese people are most interested in, sending waves of would-be listeners to the American competition.
See also an opinion piece in the New York Times by A.M. Rosenthal from the same day:
Hundreds of thousands of people march in the streets. The police are pushed back, and a Government shakes in fear of its own citizens.
The people march for the right to talk and think and write, and to vote. They shout for the things the United States has told them and the rest of the world it holds dear as life itself.
The United States Government does nothing. From time to time, it mumbles a low-level word of sympathy. But most of the time it just coughs into its hand.
Now why is this? Why is American policy so tender of the sensibilities of the Chinese Communist Government?
[This series was originally posted by CDT in 2009 to mark the 20th anniversary of the protests. If you have access to additional sources of original reporting, video, accounts or photos from the spring of 1989, please send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll consider including them in this series. Many thanks.]