Hong Kong Reporting Team from the News Center and the China Branch, 2020 winner
“All the protesters are scared, because maybe we will die,” a student protester told VOA reporter Bill Gallo in Hong Kong last November. “But we think if we don’t stand up this day, all the freedom we will lose. So there is no way to go back for us.”
The remark, made inside a barricaded Hong Kong Polytechnic University as the students braced for an expected police assault, resonates sadly today in light of a new Chinese security law which has silenced Beijing’s critics in Hong Kong and perhaps permanently stifled that very freedom.
But last fall, in the weeks immediately after the local government had bowed to the demonstrators’ demand that it withdraw another controversial proposed law providing for the extradition of suspects to China, anything seemed possible.
Covering the months-long wave of protests, stilled only this year by the threat of the coronavirus, was seen as an opportunity and a mandate for VOA, with its mission to bring honest, objective reporting to people in places like China who cannot get the truth from their own national media.
VOA reporters traveled into the territory on temporary assignments from Washington, Seoul, Bangkok and other locations to join a Mandarin-language service team already in place. Together they worked not only to show the world what was happening on the streets but also to give voice to the protesters and explain their motivations to audiences who otherwise heard only state-approved propaganda. Our comprehensive reports came from Hong Kong, Taipei, Beijing, Washington, New York, Boston and London.
To tell the story on the ground, the reporters and videographers waded daily into the thick of increasingly violent Hong Kong demonstrations. Riot police frequently resorted to tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse the protesters. After 17 weeks of protest, police used live ammunition and struck two protesters.
VOA reporters joined the protesters behind their barricades to record their experiences and emotions. The VOA reporting team placed themselves at risk of police bullets and explosive devices to capture the dramatic video scenes that drive these reports.
At one point or another, all of our reporters were hurt by tear gas, and all of them bravely carried on. In one instance, reporter Mindy Liu, whose skin got stung by tear gas ran into a fellow reporter who was hit in the eye. She helped her co-worker clean up the injured eye to immediately appear on our live show via Skype and talk about the riot police deployment. A local witness approached the pair, handed them bottles of water and expressed gratitude for their hard work. Stories like this abound.
Rounding out the coverage, producers and reporters from VOA’s weekly half-hour TV program “Plugged In With Greta Van Susteren” traveled to Hong Kong for an in-depth examination of the protest movement and its prospects for saving the territory’s tenuous grip on self-governance.
The result is a package of VOA News Center and China Branch reporting that provides a compelling portrait of a community in crisis with nothing less at stake than freedom itself. The Voice of America’s News Center and China Branch are proud to nominate our team for its courageous reporting, for this year’s David Burke award.
This Hong Kong reporting team represents an unprecedented collaboration between the VOA News Center and the VOA China Branch in covering the prolonged protests, providing unbiased and honest coverage of the quest for freedom in Hong Kong. The team on the ground was comprised of seasoned journalists with decades of reporting experience across the globe.