For six weeks in the spring of 1989, pro-democracy demonstrations by students and workers rocked China.
News of the protests flashed around the world, but the Chinese government suppressed information about the growing protests. VOA Chinese and English broadcasts were among the few sources for Chinese people to find out what was happening in their own country.
"VOA had an enormous impact during that period," recalls VOA's Beijing Bureau Chief at the time, Al Pessin. "We were a free media that was reporting back to the Chinese people, which of course is one of the main things that VOA is supposed to do around the world - to provide information to people about what is going on around them so that they can make their own decisions about what to do," he said. "And in that situation millions and millions of Chinese people decided to go out and support the demonstrations."
Al Pessin's daily reporting drew him into the thick of the swelling Tiananmen demonstrations. "We had many experiences where, on Tiananmen Square, somebody would have a radio; they would be holding it high in the air at maximum volume, and a large crowd would press in and try to stay quiet in order to listen to a VOA broadcast," said Al Pessin.
Troops and tanks swept into Beijing early on June 4 to break up the demonstrations. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of protesters were gunned down in the streets, and VOA reported the news.
After the massacre, Al Pessin was expelled from China, but our coverage continued through many other reporters. Today, VOA's Beijing bureau is one of our largest in the world.
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