RFA’s Cantonese Service

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 January 2012 07:22 Written by RFA15 Tuesday, 17 January 2012 08:10

RFA Cantonese interviews the mother of jailed Chinese journalist Shi Tao. With the help of the Hong Kong Legislator Albert Ho (left) she came to Washington, D.C. to sue Yahoo for leaking Shi’s IP information to the Chinese authorities in 2007. RFA Photo.

Thank you for visiting RFA’s 15th Anniversary site. This month we’re featuring RFA’s Cantonese service. Since its beginning in 1998, RFA Cantonese service has been successfully breaking stories and providing thorough coverage of news and information.

Please scroll down to learn more about RFA Cantonese, including fast facts, photos, history, special programming, listener comments, and the media environment in China.

You can also view the service’s robust multimedia features, exclusive coverage, and major news events as well as awards won by RFA Cantonese journalists.

Fast Facts
First Broadcast: May 18, 1998
Language: Cantonese
Coverage: 2 hours of programming per day, 7 days a week
Distribution: Radio (shortwave, 24-hour streaming audio over satellite) and Internet
Website: http://www.rfa.org/cantonese
English Language Website: http://www.rfa.org/english/news/china

In 2010, RFA Cantonese interviewed Chai Ling, the former Chinese student leader, about her work on behalf of rights for Chinese women and children. RFA Photo.

Impact
Radio Free Asia’s Cantonese service broadcasts to southern China’s Cantonese-speaking areas, which are among the world’s fastest changing and most densely populated regions.  The region, which includes Hong Kong, has a reputation of having the most open, free media-friendly environment in mainland China. Recent signs, however, point to a steep decline in freedom of the region’s press. Surveys of journalists by the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) indicate self-censorship is widely practiced by reporters and editors – a worrying trend that indicates a media world fast-becoming increasingly beholden to Beijing.

RFA Cantonese helps to fill this widening gap. Its often exclusive coverage has earned respect and appreciation of listeners, as well as notable news outlets, and respected journalistic and human rights organizations. From leading international media in coverage of the landmark lawsuit filed by parents of school children killed in the deadly Sichuan earthquake in 2008, to reporting on consumer rights abuses, to breaking news about forced abortions being performed on women in southwest China, the Cantonese service has a strong record of providing its listeners with accurate, timely news and information, in addition to broadcasting important topical programming and listener call-in shows, which use Skype to generate more calls.

Some highlights include reporting on the recent Cantonese language protests in China, when authorities tried to restrict the usage of non-Mandarin, breaking the news about an internal memo revealing a possible radiation leak China’s Daya Bay nuclear power plant near Hong Kong, and the detaining of petitioners in mental hospitals in Hubei province. Over the years, Hong Kong-based Foreign Correspondents Club, Amnesty International and HJKA have honored the service’s reporters with human rights and additional awards for these and other stories.

Special Programming
In addition to daily news, RFA Cantonese hosts an hour-long call-in show on Saturdays and Sundays, offering listeners a chance to discuss uncensored opinions and ideas with experts. The service also airs pre-recorded listener feedback and broadcasts book reviews of banned and censored literature; commentary on Chinese politics, economics, and culture; and news analyses of current affairs in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the mainland. RFA Cantonese carries in-depth features on the current situation in China, as well as commentaries by experts on different subjects, including public health, economics, history, and politics in China. The service also broadcasts book reviews by four veteran commentators. RFA Cantonese has two talk shows hosted by public affairs analysts Johnny Lau and Lau Wan. Recently, the service added a program titled “Circumventing the Firewall in China,” which explains how to use proxy software and links to freely access the Web, including online resources such as news and information deemed sensitive by Chinese censors.

 

RFA Cantonese wins a Bronze Medal at the New York Festivals Radio Programming Competition in June 2007. RFA Photo.

Awards

2011
Winner, David Burke Distinguished Journalism Award. RFA’s Cantonese Service was recognized for groundbreaking coverage of a radiation leak and the Chinese Government’s nondisclosure of that information. In May 2010, China’s Shenzhen Daya Bay Nuclear Plant incurred four accidents, including its most serious radiation leak since it began operations, which authorities tried to cover up. RFA’s Cantonese Service obtained a document revealing details of the nuclear leakage, and broke the story with comprehensive coverage, which was picked up by major global media organizations, including The New York Times and Bloomberg News. After this story was revealed, environmentalists and local politicians called for accountability, an investigation, and new accident reporting requirements.

Merit, Human Rights Press Award, co-sponsored by Amnesty International Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club and the Hong Kong Journalists Association. RFA Cantonese won two awards, earning praise for the Shenzhen Daya Bay nuclear incident series. RFA Cantonese Journalist Hainan won the award for her story “Petitioners Locked Up in Mental Hospital.”

2008
Grand Prize, Human Rights Press Award, co-sponsored by Amnesty International Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club and the Hong Kong Journalists Association. RFA Cantonese’s Sandy Fung won in the category of Chinese radio broadcast for the story “Forced Abortion in Guangxi.” For its reporting on forced abortions in southwestern Guanxi, where dozens of pregnant women were taken by authorities to a hospital in Baise city to undergo the procedure, RFA Cantonese won this top award. RFA’s coverage resulted in local protests and an official inquiry.

Silver medal, Consumer Rights Award, co-sponsored by the Hong Kong Consumer Council and Hong Kong Journalists Association. RFA Cantonese was recognized for its excellent consumer rights coverage in 2008 for its coverage of tainted food and drug products. RFA Cantonese’s King Man Ho won the award for his story “Gutter Oil in China”. He was recognized for his investigation into the use of cheap and unsanitary cooking oil in Shenzhen restaurants.

2007
Bronze Medal, New York Festivals. RFA Cantonese’s Shiny Li and Nashi Ni earned third place in the category of Environmental Programs for the RFA story “Lead Poisoning in China Villages.” The winning coverage focused on the fate of villagers in the northwestern province of Gansu who have battled lead poisoning for more than 10 years.

2005
Merit Human Rights Press Award, co-sponsored by Amnesty International Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club and the Hong Kong Journalists Association. RFA Cantonese’s Lillian Cheung was praised  for her story on abuses in prison against June 4, 1989 demonstrators and King Man Ho of the service was recognized for his feature on Chinese controls over short message systems.

2004
Grand Prize, Human Rights Press Award, cosponsored by Amnesty International Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club and the Hong Kong Journalists Association. RFA’s Lillian Cheung won two grand prizes.

2003
Finalist, New York Festivals. RFA Cantonese’s Tanya Lau was a finalist in the category of Best Human Interest Story for “Two Comrades – A Love Story.” The piece relates the story of two Chinese journalists who were separated for decades before being reunited as exiles in the United States. They married shortly after their reunion.

2002
Silver Medal, New York Festivals. RFA’s Tanya Lau received a medal in the category of Profiles/Community Portraits for the five-part Cantonese series “September 11th and Chinatown.”

 

Chinese high school students hold a rare protest in Anhui after a classmate is killed in a hit-and-run. RFA Mandarin and Cantonese jointly covered the demonstrations on Sept. 7, 2010. Photo courtesy of netizens.

Media Environment in China
China’s Cantonese-speaking areas are among the fastest changing and most densely populated areas in the world. Guangdong province alone has a population of more than 100 million people and a large chunk of Guangxi’s 48.9 million people also speak Cantonese as their first language. Hong Kong and Macau add almost 8 million to the Cantonese-speaking population.This is an area that continues to serve as a bellwether for change in China. China’s first “Special Economic Zones” were in Guangdong and its growth, development and social dislocations have foreshadowed trends that have overtaken the rest of the country.

Those trends include widespread labor unrest, dislocation of long-time residents, popular protests, rampant corruption at all levels of government, harsh crackdowns on the media and China’s most advanced Internet surveillance.In neighboring Hong Kong, self-censorship has reduced the watchdog role of the media, thus increasing the importance of the surrogate media service that RFA provides. As the Hong Kong Journalist Association said in its 2007 survey, Hong Kong media were less free than before the Chinese takeover in 1997. Over the past five years, a number of fans of RFA’s Cantonese “Tea House” call-in program have been threatened by security police and warned not to continue listening to the show. One devoted listener in Nanning was detained twice by the police and fined $900 on charges of “contacting an overseas opposition radio” and “endangering national security.” Ten members of an RFA Cantonese fan club in Guangzhou were summoned for interrogations in 2008, and one was forced to write a confession and stop petitioning the local government.

Rights lawyer Guo Feixiong, in the RFA Cantonese service studios in 2006, talked about his work in China. RFA Photo.

China’s media environment remains one of the world’s most restrictive. Media watchdog organization Freedom House notes that “The Chinese authorities kept a tight grip on traditional and online media coverage of a range of politically sensitive topics. In 2010, that included stifling independent reporting and writing about the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in December.” Liu is one of dozens of activists, dissidents, and journalists who remain in jail for their writing.

Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press Rankings classified China as “Not Free,” ranking it 184th of the 196 countries surveyed in 2011.
Committee to Protect Journalists’ Report on Number of Journalists Imprisoned states that 34 reporters and editors are jailed in China.
Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Barometer of 2011 calls China “the world’s biggest prison for journalists, bloggers and cyber-dissidents.” Most of the around 100 prisoners have been sentenced to long jail sentences for “subversion” or “divulging state secrets” and are held in harsh conditions, with journalists often being put to forced labor. The local authorities, fearful of bad publicity from reports on corruption and nepotism, continue to arrest journalists. There are 68 imprisoned netizens, according to Reporters without Borders’ profile of China.
An excerpt from Human Rights Watch’s 2011 World Report reads, “The government continued to restrict the rights and freedoms of journalists, bloggers and an estimated 384 million internet users, in violation of domestic legal guarantees of freedom of press and expression. The government requires state media and internet search firms to censor references to issues ranging from the June 1989 Tiananmen massacres to details of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.”

History
RFA Cantonese began broadcasting on May 18, 1998, the eighth language service offered by RFA at the time. The reporting was largely focused on Chinese domestic issues along with a focus on Asian news related to China. The original one-hour broadcasts were heard two times each day on short-wave frequencies. The Cantonese programming was transmitted from studios in Washington seven days a week and the broadcasts were heard in China each day at 10 p.m. and repeated at 6 a.m. the following morning.

A reporter from RFA Cantonese covers Yao Ming's first game in Washington, DC in February 2003. RFA Photo.

At the time, RFA President Dick Richter in a statement said, “To simply say that RFA is adding two hours to its China broadcasting schedule doesn’t sound terribly significant. But it is, because those two hours are in Cantonese, a language spoken by more than 50 million people in China, more than 66 million throughout the world. It is indeed a challenge to well serve so many people.” Recalling RFA Cantonese’s early days, RFA Executive Editor Dan Southerland said RFA was able to built a Cantonese service due to strong bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress to increase broadcasting to China in 1996-97. The Cantonese start-up team was the smallest team ever to launch an RFA language service.

He added, “They’ve remained the smallest but also one of the most productive. A total of five broadcasters contributed to the first show in May 1998. Two had no broadcasting experience. One was an intern.” Southerland also recalled RFA Cantonese recruiting two veteran broadcasters in Hong Kong, Chris Leung and Andy Hui. Both came from CTN, a Taiwan-based television news station. The two provided a professional framework and voicing for the first broadcast. They also provided most of the programming and packaging for the first show.

Kris Keegan, a veteran RFA producer who trained and coached the Washington team, described the enthusiasm and intelligence of the team but also the challenges they faced. “We were blessed to have very smart people who knew how to write very smart things. We had good material, good voices, and good equipment. I’d never worked in such good studios before,” Keegan said. “What was missing was the delivery. They were either too eager in reading or they were stumbling all over the place because they were upset by the news. They were affected by the news. Or they were reading like cheerleaders. They had their favorites among Hong Kong politicians. It wasn’t in the writing, but they projected it in their voices. I told them: ‘Let’s tone it down. It’s a news item, it’s serious political news. We’ve got to be neutral.’” This focus on neutrality at RFA continues to this day.

Online Mulitmedia and Innovations
RFA’s Cantonese service launched its Cantonese language website in 1998 with a multimedia page. The service also maintains a Facebook page and Twitter updates.

RFA Cantonese interviews Duke University student Grace Wang, April 2008. RFA Photo.

The Cantonese service was one of the first news sites to post Duke University student Grace Wang’s interview video online, receiving more than 100,000 hits, following her attempt to mediate between clashing Chinese and Tibetan fellow students in 2008. Her actions drew insults and death threats that sent her family in China into hiding. In RFA’s exclusive interview she shared her insights on Internet issues and the debate online.

On June 7, 2007, an RFA Cantonese reporter received a video taken by a citizen in Zhenchou, Henan, showing a mass protest after city administrators beat a college student. It became one of the first examples of the service’s citizen journalist video report.
Skype: RFA Cantonese launched Skype for its call-in show in March 2010. Listeners can use this alternative way to call or write to express their opinions daily. At the same time, the service installed a Skype icon on the website so listeners can simply click on the icon and reach the call-in show hosts.

Youtube
:
In January 2007, the Cantonese Service became a pioneer amongs the RFA services in posting news videos both on its YouTube channel and the RFA Cantonese website.  They include news stories, and videos of demonstrations and protests filmed by eyewitness citizen journalists and RFA stringers.

iPhone App:
 Launched in August 2011, RFA Cantonese Service’s iPhone app is the most popular among RFA’s language services, with more than 4,000 downloads.

Listener Comments

“[RFA Cantonese] reports on issues the domestic media wouldn’t dare to cover. Freedom of speech is yet to come to China.” — Male listener, 30 (2009)

“Now we high school students are starting to get to know your station. Your program is very educational. You give us information that our teachers and government won’t give to us.” — Listener from Guangzhou (2006)

“RFA is fast and accurate, unlike domestic media which tends to be sluggish. I think it definitely puts pressures on domestic media to lift its game.” — Male listener, 45, Foshan (2008)

“[RFA Cantonese] dares to reveal the truth. I respect its entire staff. We need such a medium that dares to speak up.” — Male listener, 29 (2009)

“I have been listening to your show since 2002. I don’t have a computer at work or home so I mainly listen to your show via short wave radio. The jamming sometimes is quite serious. When I hear some news I am interested in or related to Yulin [Guangxi], I will use a pen-shape recorder to record the show and share the information with my co-workers.” – Male listener, Guangxi (2011)

“I always call RFA Cantonese because I can talk and express my opinion freely.” — Male listener, Guangdong (2010)

“It’s the spiritual food for us. The Cantonese Service has contributed so much in the areas of disseminating the ideologies of freedom and democracy and of disclosing the corruption of the Chinese government. It’s our light while the people in China live in the dark.”– Mr. Ma from Jiangxi (2008)

“Compared with Hong Kong radio and other Hong Kong media, RFA is braver in telling the truth. What it talks about usually are hot issues, which often prompt the audience to participate  and speak up about their sorrows and unhappiness.” – Listener, Shenzhen (2005)

Major News Events and Recent Story Highlights

2011

RFA’s Cantonese service completed a 10 part investigative series about pollution on the Dong River in 2011.

Dong River Pollution Series
Early in 2011, Radio Free Asia’s Cantonese Service launched an investigative report on the airwaves and online on the causes of pollution of Dongjiang River, a major tributary of the Pearl River which, in less than 10 years, has changed radically for the worst. The Dong River nourishes agriculture and is the primary water source for 50 million people in Southern China and also a primary source of drinking water for the seven million residents of Hong Kong. RFA reporters shot 10 videos and posted 10 investigative stories for the multi-media project – one focusing on recent international dispute about rare earth mining; another about children suffering from lead poisoning caused by lead factories in Heyuan, Guangdong.

September
Shanghai Parents Battle Pollution
Residents of Shanghai’s Pudong district, whose gleaming skyscrapers and financial buildings have become an icon of a rising China, say their children are being poisoned by lead emissions from a nearby battery plant. At least 30 children have lead poisoning, according to the Cantonese service’s exclusive report. Some of the affected children had levels as high as 300 micrograms of lead per liter of blood. An employee  Shanghai Johnson Controls International Battery acknowledged that the factory was ordered to halt the operation, saying, they “received a notice from the government telling us that our lead levels had already reached the annual allowable maximum. Therefore we have to halt production temporarily. It has nothing to do with pollution.”

In an undated photo, a Pudong district resident displays dust they say was emitted by a nearby battery plant. RFA photo.

Factories Shut Over Lead Fears
The Cantonese service followed up on a posting on a parent microblog that at least 30 children have lead poisoning in Shanghai’s Pudong district. One parent told RFA, “There is a very bad smell, and the lead powder has contaminated our food and water. We have been to the government to tell them about this, but they say that the factory has a waste permit.” Another local resident, whose three-year old son had tested with moderate-to-high lead levels, said a second test administered by the Xinhua Hospital had come back normal. “The test slip was handwritten, so it could easily be changed. My main fear is that the test result is false and then that will waste time my child could be using to get treatment.” RFA learned that one of the parents, an employee of the battery company, was threatened with being fired for disclosing information to media.

Uyghur Scholar’s Classes Canceled

RFA Cantonese reported that Beijing Minorities University canceled a class taught by prominent Uyghur professor Ilham Tohti on immigration, discrimination, and development in Xinjiang. Tohti, who has been under close scrutiny from the authorities since the Xinjiang riots in July 2009, said he was notified of the cancellation on Sept.15, nearly a week after his first class. The class was cancelled due to lack of student interest, according to an employee at the university. She told RFA, “University rules state that a class has to be cancelled if fewer than 25 students sign up. The class only had 21 students enrolled.” However, Tohti said, “I could see from the computer system that 59 people had enrolled in the course, but when the semester started, that number had dropped to 22.”

Protesters march to press for the relocation of the Fujia Chemical Plant, Aug. 14, 2011. RFA's Cantonese service received this photo from a Dalian resident.

August
Chemical Plant Sparks Protests
Tens of thousands of Dalian residents demanded that the Fujia Chemical Plant in Liaoning province be shut down after it suffered a leak caused by a severe tropical storm which breached a wall protecting the plant. Due to the fear that a toxic chemical, paraxylene, would be released into the air, residents were evacuated. Official media reported that no leakage occurred, but many local residents said there was an odor throughout the city. CCTV and other mainland reporters were beaten when they attempted to get into the plant to report the situation. Liu Chunyi, a local rights activist said, “It is very difficult to get any news about the plant through official media. We learned through the Internet that a protest demanding relocation of the plant would take place on Sunday.”

Command Center to Oversee Netizens

China announced the creation of a nationwide command center to oversee the country’s 457 million netizens, and to “manage information” on the Internet, prompting fears that online controls will get even tighter. Staffed and headed by existing State Council information office staff and directors, the new department will have a hands-on role in the direction of online publications.  Sichuan-based rights activist Liu Feiyue told RFA, “The aim is to increase monitoring and control over the Internet, and to step up the pressure on netizens.” But Hangzhou-based independent journalist Zan Aizong said the authorities will find it hard to achieve greater control over social media. “New media like blogs and microblogs are new channels for expression,” Zan said. “They barely get done stamping out one thing, and another grows.”

Riots Highlight Migrant Rights

Hostility between migrant workers and local authorities triggered three days of riots in Zengcheng, a factory hub in Guangdong. Several thousand paramilitary soldiers fired tear gas at thousands of rioters on the streets. A local resident told RFA that a 20-year-old pregnant Sichuan woman and her husband were running a stall when a security guard told them to leave. A skirmish broke out, and the pregnant woman was said to be pushed to the ground. The clash attracted a larger crowd as security forces backed by armored vehicles intervened, while several thousand people joined the riots. Rioters threw bricks and plastic water bottles at the security forces, which used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Calls to the local police stations and village committee were not answered. A staff member at the provincial Public Security Office said the authorities were handling the case and refused to answer questions.

In a cellphone photo sent by an onlooker, a Mongolian woman sits in front of riot police, June 25, 2011.

Herders ‘Beaten’ After Protest
The Cantonese service followed the protests of Mongolian herders in Xinlin in late May, which extended to students protesting in the capital of Hobot in June. A source in Hobot told RFA that he saw tanks in the street, saying, “The atmosphere on the train in Hobot was very tense. All the police were wearing bullet-proof vests with submachine guns. Near Chifeng, tanks were in the streets. Police vehicles were all over the place. Paramilitary soldiers were lined up on the street.” Many police were stationed on campuses of universities to prevent any student protests, banning students from going out. When asked about the protests by the students, the local government denied any student protests and the barring of students from going out. She said, “There is no protest here. Students are in the class, very normal. No gathering.”

March
Workers Flee Libya
Thousands of Chinese workers have been airlifted out of Libya. A Chinese worker still in Libya on March 1 told RFA’s Cantonese service, “It is pretty scary right now, because the opposition forces are evenly matched with the government. … Right now, all we can do is stay home and wait for news from the Chinese Embassy.” He said that Chinese workers had spent the past few days huddled in their housing, waiting for the signal from embassy officials to evacuate.

 

Sichuan-based activist Liu Xianbin. Photo courtesy of the Rights Protections website.

Dissident Gets 10 Years
The Cantonese service reported that Liu Xianbin, a prominent mainland dissident, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “subversion of state power.” Liu, who previously served time in prison in connection with the 1989 pro-democracy movement, was accused of libeling China’s leaders and calling for an end to Communist Party rule in his writings. Liu’s wife, Chen Mingxian said, “His right to defend himself was taken away. He was only able to say one thing. He was unable to make a clear and coherent argument in his own defense.”

February
Middle East Unrest
RFA’s Mandarin and Cantonese services covered  political developments in Egypt and the Middle East through daily reports, providing details on demonstrations in Jordan, Yemen, and Libya. The services focused mainly on China’s reaction to the unrest in Egypt. Cantonese listeners told RFA that they relied on RFA for accurate coverage of the protest, since Chinese authorities banned news of the unrest. RFA interviewed several Chinese dissidents who were in Cairo during the protests and gave eyewitness accounts. Ying Wen, a Chinese restaurant owner in Egypt, told the Cantonese service that he wanted to go back to China. “However, my newborn son does not have a passport and the Chinese embassy refused to issue him a passport right now. We have to stay. I’m scared,” he said.

China Plays Down ‘Jasmine’ Protests
Clampdown on Egypt Reaction
On Feb. 20, cyber activists called for demonstrations in 13 major Chinese cities, code named “Jasmine Revolution,” the name given to the Tunisian freedom movement. Protesters gathered in downtown Beijing amid heavy police presence. Witnesses told RFA’s Mandarin and Cantonese services that plainclothes public security officers outnumbered civilians, as was the case in demonstrations in other cities.U.S.-based Chinese language website Boxun.com reported being hacked on Feb. 19 and was unavailable a day later.

On Feb. 21, an RFA Hong Kong stringer said that Chinese official media were playing down the attempts at nationwide coordinated protests in China. Several rights lawyers were detained, and  Chinese police disrupted text messaging services and censored Internet postings about the protests. Liang Haiyan, a Guangzhou resident arrested for “instigating subversion,” had reposted some information from overseas websites onto mainland sites.

On January 14, 2011 RFA Cantonese interviewed China Democratic National Joint Secretary General Wang Min (right) and Wang Yan from Guangdong Shaoguan (left) In its Washington, DC studios. RFA Photo.

January
The evictees of Shaoguan petition Hu Jiantao in the US
RFA’s Cantonese service interviewed a father and son from Shaoguan, Guangdong, who had flown to the United States to petition Chinese President Hu Jiantao during his visit to Washington, D.C. The son, Wang Dongyin, said, “Our family’s four-storey house was forcibly demolished in August 2010. A few hundred police and related personnel were deployed to demolish our house.” That piece of land will be developed by the local government for commercial use. Wang told RFA, “They gave us 720,000 yuan in compensation, but the market value is seven million yuan. Dozens of members of our family live there. We have petitioned many places in China but without any resolution. That’s why we came here to protest to Hu Jiantao.”

Clashes in Quake Region
The Cantonese service reported that disputes over compensation for families of victims of the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake have not been resolved. In January, over 200 parents tried to meet with the mayor of Deyang city to discuss compensation claims but were confronted by nearly 100 riot police. A bereaved parent told RFA, “The social security insurance compensation should be 38,000 yuan. We never received it. We have gone to the Social Security Office but nothing happened.” Another parent said, “We are getting old now. Only 30,000 something is not enough. Our kids got killed.”

Memorial For Democracy Icon

In early January, the Cantonese service reported the death of Szeto Wah, a long-time democratic politician and the brains behind “Operation Yellowbird,” a Hong Kong-based organization which helped students involved in the Tianamen Square protest to escape arrest. Later broadcasts reported that the Hong Kong government had barred Chinese former student leaders Wang Dan and Wu’er Kaixi from attending Wah’s memorial service, despite criticism flooding social media networks. RFA interviewed Wang, who was very disappointed and baffled by the decision. In a  joint press conference with Wu’er Kaixi in Taiwan, Wang said, “the one-country-two-systems is dead. We are worried about the future of Hong Kong.” Wu’er Kaixi said, “I am angry. The only reason (for barring us from Hong Kong) is that Hong Kong authorities are afraid of displeasing Beijing.” Thousands of Hong Kong people, some from mainland China, paid respect to Szeto Wah at his memorial service.

 

An empty chair for Liu Xiaobo at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo on December 10, 2010. RFA Photo.

2010
December

Letter Calls For Liu’s Release
China Steps Up Nobel Pressure
Nobel Honor for Absent Liu
RFA’s Cantonese, Mandarin, and Tibetan services aired daily reports from Oslo, the site of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony for imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, accompanied by videos and photos. RFA reporters covered the ceremony in real time on “Facebook,” with instant photos, relaying the historical event to netizens. An RFA Cantonese reporter sent video and updated their Facebook and Twitter services with minute-by-minute details of the event. RFA published an interview with Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, under house arrest and published video coverage of demonstrations in Oslo asking for Liu’s release from jail.

Yang Jianli, a guest at the ceremony, told the Cantonese service, “Chinese authorities’ recent crackdown on activists because of Liu obviously tells the whole world that they have erected a ‘Berlin Wall’ in China to separate China from the world. This is a prison wall.” Another invited guest, Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress, said, “I am touched by the Charter 08 [drafted by Liu], and I want to be a co-signatory too. We all hope the despotism in China can be shifted to real democracy.”

RFA reported worldwide reaction and included video footage and photos of the following:

  • In Washington, more than 100 American statesmen and Chinese rights activists attended a celebration held at the Victims of Communism Memorial.
  • In Beijing (filed from Hong Kong), both CNN and BBC TV were blacked out at the exact time of the Oslo ceremony. Security outside Liu Xiaobo’s apartment in Beijing was heavy and police cars lined a nearby road.  On the Internet, a cartoon about Liu drawn by Chinese netizens titled “Hope and Struggle” was circulated, together with pictures of the award ceremony and of Liu’s empty chair.
  • China detained and imposed exit bans on a large number of civil rights activists before the ceremony, including placing Beijing-based writer Yu Jie and Tibetan writer Woeser under house arrest.
  • In Hong Kong, pro-democracy politicians and activists celebrated the award with rallies.
  • In Taipei, Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou urged Chinese authorities to free Liu Xiaobo.
  • In Rangoon (filed from Kuala Lumpur), Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, also a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, encouraged Liu Xiaobo to stick to his principles.
  • In Moscow, Russian rights activists rallied outside the Chinese embassy to protest the continuing jailing of Liu Xiaobo and blast Russia’s boycott of the Nobel ceremony.

Zhao Lianhai, in an undated photo. Photo courtesy of Kidney Stone Babies website.

Milk Dad ‘Out On Parole’
RFA’s Cantonese service reported that jailed tainted-milk-scandal activist Zhao Lianhai posted a statement on his blog saying he had been released on medical parole and apologizing for “provocative” remarks he had made against the government in the past. Neither Zhao nor his wife could be reached to confirm the note, and many rights activists and lawyers questioned the statement. Jiang Yalin, a fellow activist and head of the civic group Kidney Stone Babies, did not believe that Zhao had written the blog and said, “If he really is free, he would go over the Firewall and tweet his innocence. It is impossible he just wrote this on his blog. It is not him.” Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker Albert Ho said Zhao’s “parole” was an apparent attempt to respond to a wave of negative public opinion surrounding the activist father’s sentencing. “I think the authorities are probably bowing to pressure from the outside world in approving medical parole,” Ho said.

Prices Could Spark Unrest
Skyrocketing food prices in China had a ripple effect on schools, triggering protests among students. Some 2,000 students of a secondary school in Sichuan vandalized the school cafeteria to express their anger over the high prices and low quality of the food. Tables and chairs were overturned, and pictures of the vandalism were provided by a student and posted on RFA’s website. The blogs posted by students were deleted. In another school in Henan, students at a secondary school called food prices too high and the food quality poor. In a blog, students said the bidding process to operate the cafeteria was not transparent. The blog was deleted one hour after its posting.

October
8-month Pregnant Woman in Fujian Forced to Have Abortion
Xiao Aiying, eight months pregnant, had just had the abortion injection and was still in the hospital when she told RFA Cantonese her story. The pregnancy would have resulted in her second child, illegal under China’s One Child Policy, so the local authorities detained her for two days, forcing her to sign the abortion document which she refused to do. However, she was still forced to have an abortion. The authorities admitted the case but declined to give any details.

Violence, Protests at Xinjiang School
RFA’s Cantonese service reported that several hundred Uyghur students, parents, and teachers gathered in protest at the Karamay No. 2 High School in Xinjiang after a group of Han Chinese students burst into a classroom, armed with sticks, and attacked Uyghur students. An official who answered the phone at the Karamay municipal education bureau confirmed the fights had taken place. He said, “It’s normal for schoolchildren to fight. There is no so-called political issue here, no ethnic problem to hook it to.” However, Munich-based World Uyghur Congress spokesman Dilxat Raxit said the authorities had imposed a news blackout on the fighting and subsequent demonstrations.

Zhili residents riot in opposition to tax increases, Oct. 26, 2011. Photo courtesy Zhili residents.

Officials Blamed for Tax Riots
Textile workers in the Zhili township of Zhejiang’s Huzhou city took to the streets for two days in October, torching cars and smashing government buildings, after the government announced an increase in local taxes. A woman surnamed Xie, a textile factory owner, told RFA, “It was frightening, terrifying. All the factories are closed, and the schools have suspended classes, too. There are many armed police on the street.” A man surnamed Wu, another factory owner, said that next day many shops were still closed. “There are many armed police there. Many check points are set up to inspect vehicles. Many police vehicles patrol the streets with speakers warning residents not to get involved in the protest.” The riot was triggered by a textile retailer who was beaten by tax officials when she expressed anger about an increase in textile “fees.”

Zhouqu county in China's western Gansu province. RFA image.

August
Overdevelopment Blamed for Slides
RFA’s Cantonese service interviewed several academics and scientists about the cause of the mudslide in Zhouqu county, Gansu province, that left more than 1,400 dead and 300 missing. According to Wang Shijin, associate professor at Jiangxi University’s Research Center for Environment and Resources Law Institute, “Over-mining is one of the reasons [leading to landslides]. The other reason is that after mining, [the related parties] do not shut down the site and just leave it there.” Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan writer, said that deforestation and over-construction of dams in the area were the two leading causes of the disaster in Zhouqu.

Chinese authorities claimed the incident was a natural disaster, but many local villagers and activists blamed over-mining, deforestation, and poor dam construction. The service aired a follow-up story a month after the landslide, reporting that about 500 villagers protested in front of the county’s government office for two days in mid-September. One villager told RFA, “Some experts came here to investigate and took away some evidence from the scene. They saw some walls of the dams with no concrete inside it, but they did not say a word about this.”
Health Officials Reject Milk Ties
The Cantonese service reported that parents of baby girls who have begun to develop breasts have been calling for a probe into baby formula made by Nasdaq-listed Synutra International. However, China’s health ministry said a clinical probe revealed “no evidence” to support the parents’ claims. A mother surnamed Deng from Shandong said Synutra tried to offer them 200,000 RMB to settle the case. Later, officials ordered Deng not to talk to the media.

A screenshot showing the Daya Bay Nuclear Plant taken from the Web site of Hong Kong Nuclear Investment Co., a CLP unit that owns 25 percent of the plant.

June
Plant Acccused of Stalling
RFA obtained a document from the Daya Bay nuclear power plant near Hong Kong revealing that the plant had leaked traces of radioactive iodine from an improperly sealed fuel rod. The Chinese state-owned Daya Bay Company and its Hong Kong partner, CLP, claimed the leak was small and did not require reporting to the Hong Kong government. An environmental expert and member of a Hong Kong safety consultative committee told RFA that CLP was misleading the public. The Hong Kong government had to learn about the leak from RFA. RFA’s report created much debate in Hong Kong and had a definite impact. The Hong Kong government announced that from now on, CLP must immediately inform the government of any incident at the Daya Bay plant, no matter how small.

May
Mine Sparks Anger in Qinghai
RFA’s Cantonese service reported that Tibetan herders in Qinghai criticized a mining company after it excavated at two sacred mountains in the area. Before April’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Yushu in Qinghai, local villages had complained about the Qinghai Xinyu Mining Company to local officials and to the State Council. Dhonwang, a Tibetan resident in Gyegu township, told RFA, “The earthquake happened on the day after they opened the seam.” Another Tibetan resident said, “After the earthquake, many local people were threatening to kill the people who had taken part in digging the mine because they said they had now stirred up the sacred mountain and that had caused the earthquake.” Sichuan-based government seismologist Fan Xiao said, “Sometimes, very sudden effects, or man-made activity, can be linked to (earthquakes). But it’s not very easy to provide a scientific explanation for this.”

China Reels Over Attacks
RFA Cantonese and Mandarin services reported on the latest attack on schools, as China’s central government ordered a nationwide security clampdown. On May 13, RFA learned that nine people, seven of them small children, were stabbed to death in a Shaanxi kindergarten, the fifth such attack in less than two months. Parents were not allowed to see their injured children within the first two days after the attack. A staffer in the intensive care unit of the Hangzhong Municipal 3201 Hospital said, “We do not allow any parents into the unit. No parents are allowed to stay inside. We are busy treating the children. We hope you will not bother us anymore.” Another hospital staffer told RFA, “There are still 11 children in the hospital with head injuries. Their condition is very serious.” A resident of Linchang village said, “A lot of police from the Public Security Bureau have come to the scene. After they sealed off the area, a lot of parents rushed to the scene.  It was very chaotic.”

Factory Suicides Spark Worry
RFA Cantonese reported that another employee of Foxconn, a Taiwan-owned factory in Shenzhen that supplies Apple’s iPhone and iPad in Shenzhen, committed suicide, bringing the number this year to 13. The incidents sparked calls for an investigation into its working conditions. An employee identified as Xiao Chin, who works in the logistic department, blamed long hours, a rigid regime, and abusive disciplinary procedures for the suicides, saying he too had considered ending his own life. Lee Yuanfeng, a labor activist in Shenzhen said, “We received quite a few complaints by Foxconn workers, such as beatings or body searches done by security guards. Wages have been deducted unreasonably. For example, 10 hours of overtime became only four or six hours of overtime.”

April
Milk Activist Trial Censored

China blacked out news about the trial of an activist who helped victims of a tainted milk scandal. Chinese authorities have taken swift steps to censor online news and information about the trial of an activist who sought compensation for children who fell ill or died during a tainted milk scandal in 2008. The milk scandal was exposed in 2008, and six children in China have died, with more than 300,000 poisoned.

China Declares Quake Disaster

A massive earthquake in Qinghai on April 13 killed more than 2,000 by official count, and injured nearly 20,000. RFA reporters interviewed many witnesses, victims, and teachers, who described the situation there, saying they used their bare hands to dig out people buried under the rubble. RFA also interviewed monks who rushed to the quake zone to help with the search and rescue but were later told by the authorities to leave. Several witnesses provided RFA with more than 100 quake photos, and RFA’s website posted three slide shows.

Ilham Tohti in France, February 2009.

Uyghur Barred from Travel
Chinese authorities blocked Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti from traveling to a seminar in Turkey and later forced him to leave Beijing. Tohti said, “They did not explain why I couldn’t attend. They had agreed earlier to let me go, but one day before the seminar two policemen prevented me from going and told me to travel to the south. I feel my civil rights were violated. I received five invitations from other countries last year, but even the school did not allow me to go.”

February
Police Clash With Protesters
RFA’s Cantonese service reported that more than 20 villagers were injured and some were arrested after clashes between police and villagers in a land dispute in Guilin, Guangxi. Some 700 policemen were deployed to the scene with tear gas and batons. A local resident surnamed Zhang said, “The people trying to protect the land were all elderly, women and children. …They were attacked by the riot police first, and a lot of those injured were then taken away by police.” Mr. Zhang told RFA, “[After the clash], villagers posted related news on the Internet but it has been deleted by the authorities very quickly. Some villagers used cell phones to communicate, saying they are being chased.” An employee who answered the phone at the Pingle county government, said, “Our leaders here have already dealt with this situation. Everything we did went through the municipal level authorities for approval, and the entire affairs was handled according to law.”

Kaynam Jappar, one of several Uyghurs recently attacked, shown in a Jan. 6, 2005. Photo provided by a listener.

Men Held Over Uyghur Deaths
RFA Cantonese reported that two Uyghurs were beaten to death when they were discovered stealing in a supermarket. The report was confirmed by an official at government offices in Hubei’s Wuxue. Authorities in Hubei detained at least one man in connection with the case. The official said, “There will certainly be (charges brought). This is a judicial procedure.” The official also acknowledged that relatives and supporters of the dead Uyghurs had come to demonstrate outside the municipal government buildings following the deaths of the two men and had quickly been met by officials for “arbitration and ideological work.” A local resident, who is a teacher, went to the scene the next day. He said, “Some Uyghurs do illegal activities, and we feel very unsafe.” Dilxat Rashit, spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, told RFA, “They (the Chinese authorities) are basically lying to cover up and whitewash cases in which Uyghurs are the victims, and try to make them look like ordinary criminal cases.”

January
Obama Interviewer ‘Demoted’
RFA learned that Xiang Xi, editor-in-chief of the cutting-edge newspaper Southern Weekend, had been demoted following his exclusive interview with President Obama during Obama’s visit to China. Ms. Li, a staffer from the executive office of the newspaper, confirmed the demotion, but denied it was related to the interview with Obama. Analysts said behind-the-scenes politics were more likely the cause of Xiang Xi’s change in status. The interview with President Obama had been placed on an inner page of the paper, and mainland authorities banned other media from posting it on the Web.

 

RFA’s Cantonese service interviewed President Obama’s half-brother, Mark Ndesandjo in December 2009. RFA Photo.

2009
December
Obama’s Brother Remembers

RFA’s Cantonese service interviewed President Obama’s half-brother, Mark Ndesandjo, who plans to publish an autobiography in a few months’ time. Ndesandjo is now living in China and said, “The most important thing for the U.S.-China relationship is to respect each other.”

October
Tight Security on ‘Sensitive’ Day
As Beijing increased its effort to censor the Internet content during National Day celebrations, netizens turned to Bluebooth to exchange information. Xingzai, a netizen, said he offered to share files at bus stops and subway stations, where commuters are crowded together in an area serviced by a Bluetooth network. He said, “There are crowds of people at bus stops or subway stations. Some are curious and want to receive real information … A good mobile phone can transmit data over a distance of 50 meters.” Li Renbing, a rights lawyer in China, said, “People can easily produce their own videos or other multimedia … The problem is content. The existing administrative edicts strictly ban the reproduction and publication of news of programs from overseas.”

August
Refugees ‘Flood’ China
Thousands of Burmese fled into China from Kokang, a region of Burma where the majority of residents are ethnic Chinese, reported RFA Cantonese. An official of the Wa state, another region in Burma confirmed to RFA that the Wa militia has been negotiating with the Burmese government, and that they are prepared to fight. Though the Burmese government says many refugees in China have begun to return to Kokang, a Kokang refugee in Yunan told RFA, “The Chinese government still allows us to stay here, but there is no repatriation yet. Now, very few Kokang residents go back to retrieve their personal property. They fled in a rush. Many refugees are afraid to go back because many families usually have some kind of connection with the militia, and they are scared the Burmese government will seek revenge.”

Toxic Shaanxi Plant Closed
RFA reported that the Shaanxi provincial government had sent an expert team to investigate reports that tests showed that many children had excessive lead in their blood. Authorities announced that more than 1,000 children were affected, and that the main source was a local factory, Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Company. Official media reported that the factory had been closed, but villagers told RFA that the factory was still operating. Angry villagers blocked the factory and traffic, clashing with police. Several parents were detained. Mr. Sun, a local villager, said, “Who will take responsibility? At the moment, there are no arrangements to move out. That is why we tore down the fences of the plant and damaged a dozen vehicles.” A representative from the Dongling plant said, “We have already provided free medical services to them. They still came to smash our vehicles and walls. Do they really want to demolish the whole factory?” An official from the county government said, “The children are now undergoing treatment, and there are task forces to investigate the villagers’ allegations.”

A young Uyghur man is detained by two Chinese policemen in Urumqi, July 5. Photo sent by a witness.

July
Riots in Urumqi, Xinjiang
After the riot broke out in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, on July 5, RFA’s Cantonese service sent a reporter to the scene on July 7, when the Chinese authorities tightly controlled the areas and cut all the communication networks within the area. Even though under such high risk environment, RFA’s reporter still obtained photos and videos to post on both RFA Cantonese and English websites. The Cantonese service successfully filed stories, including eyewitness accounts, from there for two days. RFA’s reporter was then detained by the authorities for two days, but was eventually released. The ethnic violence in Urumqi, which flared for three days, left at least 197 people dead.

Poster for “The 10 Conditions of Love,” a 53-minute documentary by Australian writer, director, and producer Jeff Daniels. Image Courtesy of Arcimedia & Common Room Productions.

China’s Opposition ‘Boosts’ Rebiya Movie
RFA interviewed Jeff Daniels, an independent filmmaker, who received unexpected publicity because of the Chinese government’s opposition to the screening of his documentary film about Uyghur exile leader Rebiya Kadeer at the Melbourne International Film Festival in Australia. In an exclusive interview with RFA, Daniels said, “Ironically, the one country that wishes to silence my films has given them a louder voice, and has allowed as many people to become aware of not only my film, but also its subject matter. As a documentary filmmaker, my goal is to show stories, people, and cultures that other people don’t know very much about.” China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that three Chinese films had been withdrawn from the festival in protest at the inclusion of Daniels’ film.

Parents of Missing Children Monitored by Authorities
RFA’s Cantonese service produced a series of child-kidnapping stories in May while the mainland media focused on the Public Security Bureau’s efforts to crack down on trafficking gangs. Parents of missing children criticized the government’s claim that it had rescued many kidnapped children from human trafficking gangs. Parents in Guangdong and Guangxi, where hundreds of children are missing, said the authorities are barely scratching the surface of a growing social problem, and told RFA that the government had prevented parents from staging a protest to draw attention to the problem.  A parent of a missing child from Nanning, Guangxi, said, “On the day we planned to hold the protest, the police kept watch at the bus terminal and intercepted us. We have 200 missing children in the Alliance but not one has been found by police.” Another parent from Dongguan, Guangdong, said, “The police sent out the neighborhood committee to monitor us. Whenever we go anywhere, they follow us.”

June
‘No Rapes’ in Riot Town
A deadly clash in southern China exposed long-simmering tensions between majority Han Chinese and the mostly Muslim Uyghur ethnic group. Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong said they found no evidence that ethnic minority Uyghur laborers had raped two Chinese girls, a rumor they blamed for ethnic fighting at a toy factory in Shaoguan city. On the day when the serious fighting between Hans and Uyghur in Guangdong in June 2009 resulted in two dead and over 100 injured, the Chinese official media had only a very brief report and never mentioned that the fighting was between Han Chinese and Uyghurs. On the first day of the incident, RFA Cantonese not only reported the official version, but interviewed a hospital employee and did a thorough report.

May
Mao Portrait Protesters Get Asylum
RFA Cantonese reported that two protesters who splattered paint on Mao Zedong’s portrait during the 1989 June 4th Democracy Movement in Tiananmen Square were granted political asylum in the United States, informed sources said. Former journalist and art critic Yu Dongyue was the last of the three protesters in the case to be freed. He, his wife, Yu Zhijiang, and his sister together fled to Thailand a year ago and finally obtained asylum after a year’s application period. Yu Xiyue said the main purpose of Yu’s departure was to get better treatment for the mental illness he has suffered since his incarceration. Yu Dongyue’s brother, Yu Xiyue, told RFA, “We have taken him to the hospital many times, but he has not recovered. The situation is still the same. …We don’t think he can recover here.”

A Hui Muslim woman carrying bones of her ancestors from a destroyed tomb. RFA Photo.

March
Protest Over Muslim Tombs
Villagers in a Muslim region of Sanya, Hainan province, staged a vigil to protect local Muslim tombs after several attempts by authorities to demolish them. Up to 2,000 villagers protested in late December when military personnel e sent there to begin construction work to build a training base on the land where their ancestors have been buried since the Tang Dynasty 700 years ago.

The military sent people to re-occupy the land in the middle of March, which triggered more protests from the villagers – the ethnic minority Hui people – and work was once more suspended. Hai Shaihao, deputy Party secretary of Huixin village, told RFA, “The tombs of our Muslim ancestors cannot be moved.” A local Hui said, “Even the Japanese wouldn’t have dug up the bones of the dead during their occupation of China.” An official, surnamed Zhou at Fenghuang township government, said, “We hope to solve this problem using the most peaceful means possible. But the military is unlikely to hold off forever.”

February
Tainted Milk Cases Keep Coming
In follow-up to health issues resulting from the tainted milk scandal, RFA’s Cantonese service reported that another one of China’s dairies, Dumex, was been found to be involved. Ms. Jiang from Guizhou province, whose baby developed kidney stones after drinking Dumex formula for seven months, told RFA that her investigations via the Internet revealed that at least 48 babies (later reports increasing to 100) from around the country had also gotten sick after drinking Dumex milk. She told RFA, “A Dumex staff member helped us and has provided information to us but was fired.” One day after RFA reported this story, official Xinhua said authorities are going to investigate the Dumex incidents, adding that this action was triggered by overseas media reports. Meanwhile, milk products of Mengniu Dairy Group, one of China’s biggest dairies, were found to have an unapproved protein additive, OMP. A spokesman for the Guangdong Dairy Association told RFA that the association reported this to the central government two years ago, but that no one took any action.

A screenshot taken from a live CCTV broadcast of U.S. President Barack Obama's inaugural address, Jan. 21, 2009. The censored version of the speech left some Chinese listeners puzzled.

January
Chinese Media Censor Obama Speech
A reporter from RFA’s Cantonese service covered the U.S. Presidential inauguration ceremony,  providing a live feed on the issues facing the Obama administration. The service’s Web site featured a slide show of the ceremony. RFA reported that Chinese media and large mainland websites, including the state-run China Central Television, www.Sina.com, and www.Sohu.com censored parts of Obama’s speech, such as this passage: “Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks.”

2008
December
Parents Detained During High-Level Visit
RFA reported that at least a dozen quake parents in Dujiangyan were detained during President Hu Jintao’s visit to Sichuan on December 27-29.  Ms. Yan, a victim’s parent, was detained for a day. Ms. Liu, another parent, told RFA, “At least a dozen parents were arrested by the Dujiangyan government. They said that the president was coming. The officials did not want those parents to petition.” A staff member at the local police station denied the detention.

Grave markers of children killed in school collapses during the Sichuan earthquake in Dujiangyan, May 12, 2008. RFA Photo.

RFA Cantonese also reported that many parents were still protesting the loss of their children in the massive earthquake that struck Sichuan province in May. Six months after thousands of families lost children under the rubble of school buildings in the earthquake of May 12, police in Sichuan province clashed with some 100 parents who were trying to hold memorial ceremonies for those who died. A bereaved mother from Dujiangyan city said, “There are police all the way up and down the street. Riot police, armed police, maybe several hundred of them. They were taking videos of us, but we didn’t cave in. We wrested the camera away from them. We won’t give up. All we want to do is burn some spirit money.” Another parent told RFA, “They took (a parent) away for questioning.” An officer at the Dujiangyan municipal police station responded to RFA’s questions, “Where did you hear this? You should go there and confirm this for yourself.”

A police officer kicks a protestor restrained by two fellow officers in Longnan, Gansu province. Photo sent to RFA.

Civil Unrest in Gansu
RFA’s Cantonese service reported on farmers battling police. Witnesses told RFA that several thousand farmers in Dongjiang township, Gansu province, fought with police brandishing batons and firing tear gas canisters in the midst of a protest calling for government intervention in a rural land dispute. The official Xinhua news agency reported that about 70 police and reporters were wounded, but there was no mention of farmer injuries or deaths.

A farmer, who witnessed the beatings, claimed that about 20 farmers were killed. RFA interviewed a local party official who acknowledged the clashes but denied any deaths or injuries, saying, “There are some residents petitioning, and armed police were deployed to maintain order. …We did not beat the residents, not even one.

Crisis Hits Chinese Workers
The Cantonese service interviewed workers from several Hong Kong-owned factories, which had to shut down because of the global economic crisis. Thousands of unpaid workers have staged protests throughout China. One worker told RFA, “There is a lot of anger about this. We just want them, including government officials, to talk to the workers face-to-face.” Workers continued to protest for days, and about 100 armed police were deployed to disperse the protesters. At least seven worker representatives were arrested.

October
Chinese Milk Scandal
RFA Cantonese interviewed many victims’ parents across the country, as well as talking to the first reporter to uncover the milk formula scandal.  They covered the resignation of the head of China’s product-quality regulatory agency, quoting a parent of one baby made ill by Sanlu powdered milk, who said, “This is his mistake, and he should resign. But this does not mean it can settle the issue. They hurt our babies, and in our hearts, we can never be healed again.” Another victim’s parent told RFA, “No enterprise other than Sanlu has said a word. Our babies have drunk Scient milk powder. Shouldn’t the officials in Guangdong take responsibility too?”

Oriental Morning Post reporter Jian Guangzhou was the first journalist to name Sanlu in his milk contamination story on September 11. Jian told RFA, “It was a struggle. We talked to doctors, parents, and Sanlu. Ultimately, we believed it was related to the milk powder.” Jian resisted pressure from Sanlu to delete the online article after it was first posted.

RFA’s English page featured an interactive map of the areas affected and a poignant slide show of images of concerned parents as this heart-breaking story unfolded.

July
Investigative Reporting Rewarded in Hong-Kong
RFA broadcaster Ho Shan was awarded a silver medal on June 27 by the Hong Kong Consumer Council and the Hong Kong Journalists Association in the radio category for consumer rights reporting. Ho received the award at a ceremony and was recognized for his investigation into the use of unsafe and unsanitary cooking oil in Shenzhen restaurants—some of it recycled or extracted at high temperatures from scraps fed to pigs. The aim of the award is “to heighten the general public’s awareness and understanding of consumer rights and to award press coverage of excellence on consumer rights issues and concerns.” Judges evaluated 287 entries this year

June
Sichuan Reeling From Quake
RFA’s Cantonese and Mandarin services provided extensive coverage of the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan, which left millions homeless in the wake of the 7.9 magnitude quake. The Cantonese service posted eight earthquake videos on its website – seven by RFA’s reporter in Sichuan and one from a college student in Chengdu. There were also two slideshows and a number of pictures taken by citizen journalists in China and RFA’s reporter on the scene.

The service interviewed a resident of Miangyang city, Sichuan, where more than 10,000 people were killed. Ms. Zhou, a resident, said, “Many buildings here are all gone. Many schools and even an entire bank building collapsed. As of now [three days since the earthquake struck], there is no rescue team to dig out the buried people here. No one rescues those trapped in the rubble. No one cares. You know … some are still alive in the rubble. I don’t think they’ll make it now. The rescue team has waited too long … Many people have no water and food. Nothing.”

RFA Cantonese also spoke to Miss Zhang, a resident from Jiangyou city under the administrative sphere of Miangyang.  She said, “Not one government official has come to see us, nor have they sent condolences to us. It’s been a week already. We have to solve the problems by ourselves. No one is taking caring of us. We haven’t even received a bottle of water or a small bag of food … Some food should not be that expensive, but the prices are skyrocketing. A bowl of rice noodles, which would only cost few yuan in a normal situation, now costs between 10 and 20 dollars. I don’t know how we can go on like this.”

The service produced a feature of an interview with two students who were buried in the earthquake but survived. One was saved by a schoolmate who used his own hands to dig her out of the rubble. The other, Xue Xiao, was buried for more than 80 hours and lost one of his hands. He told RFA, “On the second night, someone discovered me buried down there. They spent two days to get me out. I was almost unconscious, but they kept talking to me. I thought if I went to sleep, I would never wake up. They called my name every half minute.”

A strong earthquake ripped through western China on May 12, toppling buildings and killing nearly 9,000 people, according to official figures. RFA graphic.

May
Quake Survivors Lack Food, Water
When the big earthquake broke out in Sichuan  on May 12, 2008, the service immediately sent a Hong Kong stringer to the quake zone to do the reports. RFA Cantonese posted 11 earthquake videos/slide shows on RFA web and on YouTube, mostly filmed by RFA Cantonese’s reporter in Sichuan.

China Steps Up Crackdown in Tibet
RFA’s Cantonese service learned from a source that paramilitary police in Sichuan province fired on a crowd of Tibetan protesters who were demanding the release of two detained monks, killing at least eight people and injuring a dozen. The source told RFA, “One monk has been killed, and seven Tibetans. Yesterday morning, the police came to some Tibetan houses and asked them not to mourn those Tibetans who died in earlier clashes, and not to post the Dalai Lama’s pictures. Then they had a clash with the police. Some were arrested.” The following day, some 350 monks and another 350 lay people gathered to demand the men’s release. A duty officer at the Ganzi County Religious Affairs Bureau denied that any unrest had occurred. She said, “No. Just lies. Who said that?” Calls to county government offices and the county police station were not answered.

February
Crowds Stranded At Guangzhou Railway Station During Storm
The Cantonese service obtained exclusive videos from inside China, including interviews with rights lawyer Zheng Enchong, who has been under regular police surveillance, and with a labor rights activist who was assaulted in November by two thugs, who were apparently working with the police. At some risk, the service also sent a reporter into China to obtain video of hundreds of thousands of people stranded at the Guangzhou railway station in the midst of a severe snow storm.

Welcome!

This year, Radio Free Asia celebrates 15 years of bringing objective, accurate, and timely news to people in Asian countries that restrict free speech and free media.
 
While much has changed at RFA since we began in 1996, our mission has remained the same: to advance the principles of the fundamental right to the free-flow of information and the right to seek, receive, and impart information.
 
Please take a moment to explore this webpage where you can revisit important milestones, accomplishments, and moments from RFA’s early days to the present.
 
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On December 17, 2010 the Broadcasting Board of Governors passed this resolution celebrating and commemorating RFA's 15 years of impact broadcasting.

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