Former Voice of America (VOA) Mandarin Service chief, Dr. Sasha Gong, and VOA Mandarin Service Senior Editor Huchen Zhang spoke on June 14, 2017 at the open board meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) in Washington, DC. They were two of the “VOA Mandarin Five” journalists placed on administrative leave by VOA director Amanda Bennett.
Ms. Bennett had made earlier her decision to shorten the live VOA Mandarin Service interview with Chinese whistleblower Guo Wengui broadcast by VOA until it was cut short on April 19, 2017. Shortening of the interview resulted in a serious drop in VOA’s reputation and credibility in China. Amanda Bennett subsequently placed five VOA Mandarin Service journalists on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation. She accused Dr. Sasha Gong of not agreeing with universally accepted journalistic standards — an accusation Dr. Gong denied. She was subsequently fired by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which is the new name for the Broadcasting Board of Governors since 2018.
Dr. Gong and other VOA Mandarin Service journalists were opposed to the senior management’s attempts to shorten the Guo Wengui interview but were unsuccessful in getting the full interview to air as planned. On June 14, two of them — Dr. Sasha Gong and Huchen Zhang — spoke with courage, dignity and conviction about their commitment to VOA’s mission and getting the truth out about the Guo Wengui interview controversy. They both praised U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for tentatively agreeing with Senator Marco Rubio’s suggestion that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) conduct an independent investigation. Harvard-educated sociologist Dr. Sasha Gong was a political prisoner in China. She described being imprisoned and interrogated about listening to VOA when she was a young woman in China in the 1970s.