On Wednesday the 30th of September the student-run Moon Festival was held in Copland Courtyard.
The Moon Festival is a culturally significant harvest festival observed primarily by ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese people, though in modern times it is also observed by other Asian countries. The celebration is based around the traditions of moon-gazing and moon-worshipping during the autumn full moon.
ANU’s own Moon Festival was organised by the self-titled ‘Moon Committee’, consisting of Jenny Bui as Director, Haseeb Ikram as Assistant Director and Kieran Hancock providing volunteer assistance. They worked in conjunction with ANUSA and PARSA and do not represent any particular club or society.
When asked about her motivations in organising such an event Ms Bui said that she wanted to provide a diversified cultural experience to the university, “[involving] more countries such as Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam”, as she felt the previous year’s Mid-Autumn festival was primarily focussed on Chinese culture.
The Moon Festival event featured a large number of different cultural clubs and societies including the K-Pop Culture Club, Japan Club, ASIAA, HKSS and more. They offered cultural cuisines, displays, and performances at their stalls.
“We wanted to remind [International students] of home by providing them these mooncakes and other activities. It is also a good opportunity to share the culture with local students with all the performances, music, food and activities” said Ms Bui.
Minor controversy arose the day following day at the ISD Presidential Debate, where it was later alleged on the Moon Festival Facebook event page by one of the Moon Committee members that the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) had publicly accused the Moon Committee of discrimination.
Mr Hancock claimed in his post that, during the Presidential Debate, the CSSA had criticised members of the Moon Committee for selecting the ANU China Club over the CSSA and also that they excluded Chinese Culture at the festival. He also claimed in further posts that ‘harsh comments’ and ‘slanderous behaviour’ in the form of private Facebook messages were directed at the Moon Committee during the Debate.
“I personally made the decision to include the China Club rather than the CSSA because I had begun working with the China Club before I became involved in the Moon Festival” read Mr Hancock’s post, “Their management team is very good, they represent China well and their society is a great addition to ANU”.
Mr Hancock offered ‘no apologies whatsoever’ for his decisions.
CSSA President, Serena Lyu, replied to the post by first stating that she believed the Moon Committee did a great job promoting Chinese culture at the Festival, and secondly stating that Mr Hancock had ‘completely misunderstood’ the point she had made at the Presidential Debate. Ms Lyu claimed that the issue was not that the China Club was chosen over the CSSA. She said that the CSSA was not invited at all and that she had only asked Ms Jenny Bui, who was participating in the debate, to clarify why, as the “biggest Chinese Students’ Association on campus”, they were not invited.
Ms Lyu alleged that Ms Bui’s reply at the Debate was that the CSSA had made a ‘special request’ which the Committee could not comply with and thus they were denied. Ms Lyu questioned how the CSSA could have made a special request if they were not invited in the first place.
James Yang, another member of the CSSA committee who claims to have been present at the Presidential debate, believed that it was Mr Hancock who had exacerbated the issue initially by “slandering the CSSA” in his Facebook post.
In a comment to Woroni, Mr Yang denied that CSSA members had made harsh comments during the debate.
He also claimed that no communication was made with any of the Moon Committee in regards to the Moon Festival. He said the Mr Hancock’s comments were “dishonest and certainly insulting” and that he would like Mr Hancock to withdraw them. Furthermore, he cited contradictory statements made at the Presidential Debate to be proof that Ms Bui had spoken “deceitfully”.
“If [as claimed in the Facebook thread] Jenny has confirmed that there was no communication between [the CSSA] and her, how did she come up with the comment at the Debate that the CSSA had requested her for a larger stall?”
Regardless, both parties agreed that the Moon Festival was a success and that they were merely defending themselves against the other side’s allegations. Mr Hancock stated that the intent of his posts was to show that the Moon Committee “had no discrimination against the CSSA” and that the decision to invite the China Club was not made with knowing bias. Mr Yang agreed that there was no point in dragging the issue further.
“I believe that everyone who participated in the event enjoyed it, and that’s all that matters” he said.
Ms Jenny Bui would welcome any constructive feedback regarding the Moon Festival. All feedback should be directed toward firstname.lastname@example.org.