|AN ANGRY VOICE|
May 14, 1999
MARGARET WARNER: Now, how last week's bombing mistake looked to many Chinese in America. Spencer Michels reports.
SPENCER MICHELS: In newspapers targeting the more than 2.3 million Chinese living in America, there's one big story at the moment: The bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. In the San Francisco Bay area, home to ½ million Chinese, ethnic newspaper sales have been brisk, and calls to local Cantonese language talk radio shows have been frequent and angry, according to Joseph Leung, host and news director at San Francisco Chinese radio.
JOSEPH LEUNG, Radio Talk Show Host: Talking about the bombings, I think people really are very angry, because they have no reason to believe it was an error or a mistake. (Speaking Chinese)
SPENCER MICHELS: Lueng's talk show runs every day for an hour. (Speaking Chinese)
RADIO CALLER: (speaking through interpreter) The United States always protects its own interests. Every war occurs outside its own territory.
RADIO CALLER: (speaking through interpreter) The American people are like monsters. Their lives are more precious. Others are not. We Chinese should help Chinese.
SPENCER MICHELS: One caller expressed support for US policy in Yugoslavia, but others ridiculed him on the air, and the host joined in. (Speaking Chinese)
RADIO CALLER: (speaking through interpreter) The CIA says they used the wrong map. Does the CIA not have enough money to buy a new map?
SPENCER MICHELS: Leung, born in Hong Kong, sympathizes with the opinions of many of his callers. He says many have come from China with their political views intact.
JOSEPH LEUNG: Most of our callers are the first generation in the United States, so they bring along their backgrounds and their point of views, and they didn't feel accepted by the mainstreams. Most of them support the Chinese government.
SPENCER MICHELS: But isn't it true that many of these people essentially escaped from Mainland China?
JOSEPH LEUNG: I don't think so. That is a wrong presumption, because many western journalists think that Chinese people don't like China, so they want to immigrate to the US or to a western country. But I think that most people want to get out of China because they want to improve their economic status, they want to gain more money, or they want to join their family.
SPENCER MICHELS: Not all Chinese are as sharply critical of US policy, including American-born Attorney Arnold Chin, a Vietnam vet, and a San Francisco community leader. Still, Chin understands those voices on the radio, and shares some of their concerns.
ARNOLD CHIN: There is a segment of our community that in many respects have not been able to voice their opinions. And this radio station allows them an opportunity to espouse their views, and their viewpoints are shared by many in the community, and many of them are new immigrants, and rightfully so. Their kindredness and closeness to the Motherland is very, very recent and very close. As the generations move along, there is a greater affinity toward the United States, and a understanding of the policies of the United States.
SPENCER MICHELS: Chinese-language newspapers, which reach up to half a million American homes, have heavily covered the issues involving Chinese. The two biggest are comprehensive papers, with ties to Asia. "Sing Tao" is based in Hong Kong, and claims 60,000 readers in the Bay area alone. The "World Journal" is based in Taiwan, and has a worldwide circulation of 2.8 million, including editions in Paris, Thailand, New York and Dallas.
SPENCER MICHELS: This is a local paper.
SPOKESMAN: This is a local paper.
SPENCER MICHELS: George Koo is a Silicon Valley businessman who reads the Chinese press.
GEORGE KOO: They obviously serve an important audience, which is the Chinese Americans. And, in fact, the store I bought mine from, in Mountain View, said ever since its bombing, she's been selling her paper out at about 2 o'clock in the afternoon instead of 5 or 6 o'clock.
SPENCER MICHELS: Koo and other readers say that even though the two papers have ties to opposing bases, Hong Kong and Taiwan, their editorial stances mostly coincide, especially on the embassy bombing.
GEORGE KOO: This is "Sing Tao." And the whole front section has to do with the bombing of the embassy. This says "Clinton publicly apologized."
SPENCER MICHELS: Do you get a feeling looking at this paper that its slant, that its position is completely different from an American newspaper?
GEORGE KOO: It's not so much slant as coverage. There's so much more coverage about this thing and so much more about the Chinese reaction.
SPENCER MICHELS: Does it have the point of view that the United States says this is an accident, that it says it emphatically, that it has apologized for it several times?
GEORGE KOO: Yes.
SPENCER MICHELS: Is that in here?
GEORGE KOO: Well, this article talks about how the State Department is busy working to repair the relationship, talks about it. The fact that Clinton called to apologize, it's portraying it. But it's also portraying the other side, you know, the response to it; what the Chinese are asking for, demand.
SPENCER MICHELS: Viewers of the "Cantonese Evening News," broadcast nightly in the Bay area, have been getting almost nothing but news about the Chinese embassy bombing. This newscast, which claims it reaches 86 percent of all Cantonese-speaking Chinese-Americans, featured nearly an hour of protests around the world, plus graphic pictures of the memorials for the slain Chinese, and comments by US Officials, national and local. At the newscast's end was a report on the alleged spying incident at Los Alamos involving a Chinese American scientist. Coverage of that issue, plus the embassy bombing and the hearings on Chinese campaign contributions to US Democrats, have prompted many Chinese Americans to complain that they have been demonized in the US media.
SPENCER MICHELS: I've heard some people use the term demonizing. That the Chinese people feel demonized. Do you feel that from what you hear on the radio?
JOSEPH LEUNG: Yes. I think that most callers feel that the US Government is now trying to, after the Cold War, they want to find another target. The target is China.
SPENCER MICHELS: Chinese living in America - two thirds of them born overseas -- may not be completely of one mind in their anger. But from reading their media, it's clear that members of the community, especially newcomers, feel distress.