- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2005

As a child of refugees who escaped to the Republic of China after the communist revolution in China, Libby Liu knows that some people risk their lives to listen to Western broadcasts. As the new president of Radio Free Asia, Mrs. Liu is determined to make it easier for information-starved listeners to gain access to news.

RFA, based in the District and federally funded through the Broadcasting Board of Governors, broadcasts regional news in nine languages to China, North Korea and other closed societies throughout Asia.

“These countries have no free press and no freedom of expression,” said Mrs. Liu, who served as vice president for administration and finance before she was promoted in September. “The people who live there don’t even know what’s going on around them because their state-run media is so controlled by the government.”

Mrs. Liu supports and directs RFA’s editorial staff, from its headquarters at 2025 M St. NW to its bureaus in Taipei, Taiwan; Hong Kong; Bangkok; Seoul; and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

“All of [the regimes] would prefer that we didn’t exist, and they jam us heavily. When we move frequencies, they move frequencies,” Mrs. Liu said, adding that some countries operate departments whose sole purpose is to jam RFA broadcasts. “But we get in — by proxies, by hand, by mouth, by cell phone. It’s incredible to see how powerful the truth is.”

RFA also hosts call-in shows to provide listeners a chance to share their ideas and give them a sense that they are not alone in their beliefs, Mrs. Liu said.

“People who are listening to us on the ground are risking their lives,” she said. “They’re literally huddling under blankets in the middle of the night trying to pick us up on short-wave radio. If they go to an Internet cafe, they are, literally, any moment, going to be hauled out by police.”

Mrs. Liu said she wants RFA to continue to take advantage of new technology such as Podcasting, which allows users to download broadcasts on their IPods and listen to them later.

Mrs. Liu stressed that RFA is apolitical and reports the news without spin.

“We want to lead by example by doing work that is not biased,” she said. “Because the sheer fact that our mission is to broadcast the news that they can’t get, the governments will accuse us of being biased, but we don’t select the news; they select the news for us because it is the news they refuse to put out.”

Mrs. Liu said RFA reporters have been following the bird-flu outbreak in China for months, but government officials only recently acknowledged the spread of the disease.

“People who live there need to know this,” she said.

The RFA board of directors selected Mrs. Liu to succeed Dick Richter as president after a nationwide search.

“As the search and interview process proceeded, it became clear that the best candidate was already employed at RFA,” a board statement said. “The board believes Mrs. Liu’s credentials will serve RFA and its mission well.”

Before joining RFA in 2003, Mrs. Liu was director of administration and strategic planning for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Baltimore. She also has served as director of human resources with Spyrus Inc., a California technology company, and as an assistant district attorney in San Francisco.

Mrs. Liu, 41, lives in Falls Church with her husband, Tony, an 8-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old stepson.

— Kara Rowland

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