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<-Back to WTN Archives Radio Free Asia to step up China broadcasting with more funds (AFP)
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World Tibet Network News

Wednesday, January 21, 1998

1. Radio Free Asia to step up China broadcasting with more funds (AFP)

by Sarah Jackson-Han

WASHINGTON, Jan 18 (AFP) - In a move sure to annoy Chinese authorities but
delight many of its citizens, US legislators have more than doubled funding
for Radio Free Asia to expand its broadcasts to China and Tibet.

Both houses of Congress have now approved 24.1 million dollars in federal
funds for RFA for fiscal 1998, which began in October, up from 9.3 million
dollars the previous year.

"It would have been more," RFA president Richard Richter said in an
interview Friday, "except that by the time it was approved the first fiscal
quarter was over."

The largesse came as legislators grew more frustrated at Beijing's jamming
of RFA broadcasts and convinced there must be a better way to promote
democracy in China than continuing yearly debates over whether to yank its US
trade privileges.

"Nobody (in Congress) could really be against RFA," said one Republican
congressional aide who asked not to be named.

"The people who might be against it needed to show they're doing something
for freedom in Asia, because they're not doing much, and those who always
favored it were happy to jump on board."

RFA began operations in September 1996 with the aim of broadcasting news
and cultural programming to Asian countries where heavy-handed censorship is
the norm.

From transmitters in the Pacific, it now broadcasts to China, Burma,
Vietnam, Laos, North Korea, and Cambodia, though the new funding is
specifically earmarked for China and Tibet.

The new funding will allow RFA to increase its staff from 126 to 224 by the
summer and more than double the amount of time it spends broadcasting to China.

Mandarin broadcasts will increase from five to 12 hours daily and Tibetan
from two to four hours, alongside new programming in Cantonese and Uighur --
dialects of southern and northwestern China, respectively.

RFA decided to add Uighur after realizing that the Mandarin service has
attracted a large number of listeners in remote Xinjiang province, Richter

Like Tibet, Xinjiang has seen increasingly restiveness among residents who
are not Han Chinese. The Han constitute an overwhelming ethnic majority in
territory under Beijing's control.

Authorities blamed Uighur separatists for several bombings last year in the
provincial capital, Urumqi, and Beijing, so reporting on events in Xinjiang,
as RFA plans, could make Chinese authorities nervous.

That wouldn't be anything new for the radio service, which has encountered
jamming in China, North Korea and Vietnam. All have accused RFA, funded by
Congress but technically a private corporation, of meddling in their internal

Yet scores of letters from listeners suggest RFA broadcasts are reaching
many ordinary people and providing a welcome source of news, commentary, and
culture at a time of dizzying social and economic change.

One of several dozen letters seen here came from a Buddhist monk trying to
make a living selling compact disks on the streets on Shenzhen, the
freewheeling special economic zone in southeastern China.

His life speaks volumes about the odd patchwork of professions and pastimes
flourishing in China since senior leader Deng Xiaoping's market-oriented
reforms of the 1980s.

"In the last decade, the world has changed so much that the things I
learned, the education I received, over the last 30 years became worthless
overnight," wrote another listener from northern Hebei province.

"Five thousand years of right and wrong, all the sayings about the
ever-changing world, it's like the endless song of Chinese life," it said.

Another, from a radio reporter in northern Shanxi province, bemoans the
economic pressures of the new, market-oriented China. "Throughout the station,
everyone from top to bottom is working on commercials," the author grumbles.

Articles in this Issue:
  1. Radio Free Asia to step up China broadcasting with more funds (AFP)
  2. Chinese President meets US media giant (AFP)
  3. Tibet hospitals send aid to snow-hit county (AFP)
  4. China accuses Radio Free Asia of trying to undermine region (AFP)

Other articles this month - WTN Index - Mail the WTN-Editors

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