By Michele Greppi
It truly is a remarkably small world after all.
Seventeen years ago, Shen Tong was a leader of the dissident students
demonstrating for democratic reform in China. He was operating a radio
station out of his second-floor Beijing dorm room and piping news-including
foreign radio coverage of the remarkable protests-to fellow dissidents
on the campus triangle below through speakers perched outside his window.
He was cranking out as many as 50,000 copies of a movement newspaper,
which would be recopied so many times that they ultimately would become
Susan Zirinsky was a CBS News producer dispatched to Beijing, where her
handsomest fixer/translator was Bob Woodruff-yes, ABC News' Bob Woodruff,
who in 1989 was teaching law in Beijing.
Ms. Zirinsky's husband, Joe Peyronnin, was the CBS News executive in
charge of Tiananmen Square coverage from New York. "It was the first
revolution seen live around the world," Mr. Peyronnin said.
Over the past 17 years the trio's life lines have crossed more than once.
Now all live in New York, where Ms. Zirinsky is executive producer of
CBS News' "48 Hours Mystery." Mr. Peyronnin is the former Telemundo
news executive considering the next chapter in his life while zapping
out scripts, enjoying his family and the end to his long New York-to-Miami-and-back
commute and occasionally advising Shen Tong.
Shen Tong is living the entrepreneurial American dream. He was among
the students who were forced to flee China days after the government violently
shut down the protests on June 4, 1989. He came to the United States,
where he learned English; racked up an impressive college record; wrote
a memoir, "Almost a Revolution"; lectured; and ran a couple
of foundations dedicated to democracy in China, from which he was exiled.
He became an American citizen. "I hold a New York driver's license,"
he likes to joke. He lives in Manhattan's trendy SoHo neighborhood. He
and his wife have a daughter and another child on the way.
He will turn 38 in a month, Shen Tong said, after referring to his driver's
He has started a number of companies and has fashioned a life as a businessman
with a very personal interest in the democratization of content and Internet
technology. He is founder and president of VFinity, a company dedicated
to making the digital revolution user-friendly.
The Insider's audience might well have heard Shen Tong speak on a panel
at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in April in Las
Vegas (where VFinity had a booth). "Metadata Schema and Use-Based
Metadata Generation" was the subject, and if you have to ask for
a translation, you'd best ask someone more "meta"-fluent than
"He's a phenomenally bright, intellectually curious man," said
Ms. Zirinsky, who recalled that in Shen Tong's circle of intellectual
dissidents at the time of Tiananmen Square, "If you had dinner with
them, it ended at 4 a.m."
Even today, she said, "He's afraid to go to sleep because he might
"I've been really blessed," Shen Tong said.
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