Students in Hong Kong protests sit in street blocking traffic.
Photo credit: RFA

VOA, RFA evade Chinese government censors with coverage of Hong Kong protests

While the coverage of the Hong Kong protests by international broadcasters such as CNN and BBC are being blacked out in China, Radio Free Asia and Voice of America continue to reach mainland audiences with unbiased news and information on multiple media platforms.

“This news is not being aired on television, radio or the Internet in China at all,” a listener told RFA on October 1. “Thankfully, sources like RFA and others, when we can get them through the Internet censors, are available.”

Despite tear gas, threats from the Hong Kong police and violent anti-Occupy protesters, VOA and RFA are reporting live from the scene with video, radio and online reports.  Programs are reaching audiences in China via TV and radio on the Telstar 18 satellite, shortwave and online with on-the-scene reporting and live streaming of events in Hong Kong. Their websites and social media platforms are surging with audience engagement and include user-generated content and first-person observations and expert analysis.

Nine RFA reporters in China have been working around the clock with staff in Washington, sending reports, updates, pictures, and video. RFA journalists have interviewed protest leaders, Hong Kong legislators, and students who were hit with tear gas and pepper spray, and shop owners who were affected by the protests.

RFA interviews include human rights activists in Shanghai, Beijing, and Hunan detained or arrested because of their support for the Hong Kong protests. In addition, RFA reports feature listener feedback in the Tibetan and Uyghur regions that have faced similar crackdowns inside China.

Bao Tong, a well-known Chinese dissident and former advisor to CCP premier Zhao Ziyang, wrote a column for RFA pointing out the similarities and differences between the Hong Kong demonstrations and those in 1989 in Tiananmen Square. Bao’s RFA column was cited by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, and the Associated Press, among other outlets.

VOA’s uncompromising coverage has drawn on the talents and resources of correspondents in Hong Kong along with staff in Washington and elsewhere to continuously provide updates with live TV reports, tweets, blogs, Skype interviews, photo galleries and background analyses. Unfortunately, on September 28, two VOA journalists reporting at the front lines of the protest required first-aid help after being sprayed with pepper spray.

Viewers in China tuned in to the VOA Weishi channel and saw Hong Kong legislators such as Albert Ho, Leung Kwok-hung and Martin Lee discussing their views as well as warnings from the Hong Kong finance chief of dire economic consequences of the street protests.

VOA programs include reactions and commentaries from the United States, including the White House and State Department, such as coverage of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s meeting with President Obama. VOA’s daily updates also include reactions from Chinese communities in California, New York and Washington.

Web traffic through China and Internet anti-censorship proxies has surged 60 percent. VOA Chinese alone has produced more than 100 reports and 44 videos in its coverage of the movement. Blogger Sasha Gong’s history of Hong Kong’s electoral system and guest blogger He Qingliang’s daily analytical blogs are attracting hundreds of user comments and pickups Chinese social media.