Eight clubs affiliated with the ANUSA Clubs Council last week, including the ANU Chinese Students and Scholars Association (ANU CSSA), ANU Muslim Students Association, ANU Law Revue, Engage: University Outreach, ANU Disney Society, ANU Photography Club, Invictus Student Society and the Business and Economics Students Association (BESA). The affiliation of the ANU CSSA was expected to be the most controversial, however it affiliated with a near unanimous vote which saw one objection and two recorded abstentions.
An ANU CSSA representative explained the group’s purpose as helping “international Chinese students adapt” to life in Australia by providing access to resources and social events. The representative went on to say that “more than 300 students have joined”, and that the ANU CSSA would “facilitate employment for students returning to China.”
The representative, when asked about the difference between ANU CSSA and the Australia-China Youth Association, said “[The ANU CSSA] is a separate group,” and that there was “not too much conflict between the two societies.” When asked about alleged connections with the Chinese embassy, he said, “We do not govern any Chinese students here [sic], we’re just a student group and we do not govern anyone.”
In 2016, Alex Joske, ANU student and freelance journalist, alleged that ANU CSSA campus leader Tao Pinru harassed pharmacy employees who sold anti-Chinese government newspapers. He also said in The Financial Review, “the Chinese student population is kept deliberately separate to other students by having their own social organisations.”
Clubs Council Secretary Howard Maclean said the ANU CSSA has been referred for, “potential minor constitutional violations.” This follows breaches of electoral regulations during the International Student Department elections in 2017. However, Clubs Council Affiliation Officer Matthew Mottola said the ANU CSSA “have been compliant in every way shape and form.” Matthew also said, “they have been really responsive to our emails.”
This February, it was reported American CSSA chapters received regular payments from Chinese Embassies of US$800 per semester. Additionally, 2011 saw the Cambridge CSSA chapter disbanded due to connections between the CSSA and the Chinese embassy.