Those attending today’s ANUSA Clubs Council Meeting will be presented with a motion to vote on whether or not to affiliate the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA). However, some ANU student-led societies have approached Woroni expressing their concerns if the motion is passed, and CSSA is affiliated.
CSSA is Australia’s top Chinese student body that reports to and is partly funded by the Chinese Embassy. Incorporation documents from the ACT branch of CSSA states its mission is “to assist the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)”, “facilitate the connection between the Embassy and the Chinese students and scholars”, and that the Association’s board must communicate regularly with the Embassy.
All Chinese students and scholars in the ACT are automatically made “coordinating” members of the CSSA. In turn, all CSSA members are required to “follow the decisions of the executive committee”, and “support” and be “involved in” the Association’s events. The ANU’s CSSA is merely one element of a network of PRC government-sponsored student associations all over the world.
An anonymous student has told Woroni, “There have been a lot of concerns in the media with regard to the CSSA and its connection with the Chinese Government in the recent past. Regardless of how true this accusation against them is, I think politics should not have an effect on students’ experience at ANU and it is most definitely better to be safe than sorry in this case”.
Moreover, an anonymous Club executive representing an ANU cultural society, who will be voting today at the Clubs Council Meeting, approached Woroni to say, “Many cultural societies are involved with their Embassies and Governments”, but these relationships “should not be used as a tool of direct foreign interference”. The Executive continued, “I would love for Chinese students to feel supported and have a sense of community at ANU”, however, “ I am firmly against disruptions to ANU students and staff”. As such, they “call on other Societies to abstain from voting to pass CSSA’s affiliation request.”
In the past, CSSA has been accused of pushing Chinese propaganda and faced accusations of “campus censorship”. In 2019, Human Rights Watch called for closer observation of CSSAs, in reaction to risks concerning the undermining of “academic freedom”.
Moreover, the Canberra chapter of CSSA has allegedly assisted the Chinese Government in monitoring the lives of, and “spying” on Chinese students at the ANU.
The motion to affiliate CSSA is taking place at the second Clubs Council Meeting today at 1:00 PM.
Woroni is seeking comment from CSSA.