Recently the Chinese Cultural Club of New York University (NYUCCC) in a statement posted on its Web site attacked New Tang Dynasty TV's International Chinese Classical Dance Competition, attempting to prevent the contest from being held in an NYU auditorium. The NYUCCC's actions have attracted attention to how the Chinese consular officials control and manipulate the student bodies in the universities and colleges in the U.S.
Dr. Frank Xie knows something about the role the Chinese consular officials play in Chinese student associations. Now a professor at the College of Business of Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Xie once served as Vice President of Chinese Student and Scholars Association of Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana, and the first Chief Executive of the American Midwest Chinese Student and Scholars Solidarity Union, representing Chinese student groups from 40 universities in 11 states in the Midwest United States.
In the heady years of 1988 and 1989, Xie saw Chinese students throw off consular control, and then, in the years following the Tiananmen Square massacre, he saw Chinese consular officials reassert control over the student associations.
In an interview with The Epoch Times, Xie reflected on the changes he has seen in the Chinese student associations and their relations with the consular officials who seek to use them.
Xie said that, when he was a graduate student at Peking University, he was elected in a democratic election as a member of the Executive Committee of the Graduate Students Government, and served as its Secretary of the Department of Student Affairs. He found even then that although there was a democratic election, the senior leaders were secretly decided on by higher authorities. For example, the presidents of the Undergraduate Student Government and Graduate Student Government were both chosen by the university's Communist Party Committee and Committee of the Communist Youth League.
In 1986, Xie became a student at Purdue University in Indiana. The school had a Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), which was apparently under the control of the Chinese Consulate General in Chicago. Officials from the consulate came to the school frequently and Xie and other Chinese students felt that they were not independent and free.
In 1988, Chinese students at Purdue held their own free elections, and Xie was elected Vice President of CSSA and began to get more involved in the student body's operation.
He said, "I knew then that the CSSA was controlled by the Consulate General in Chicago. We became aware that a (Communist) Party Committee, like a shadow government, was operating behind our backs, and they were in close contact with the consulate. Officials from the Education Section of the Consulate often came to our school, and sometimes they met with all Chinese students, sometimes they met with some of us, and sometimes they met only with members of the Party committee. I still remember that when they came, they often stayed at the Travel Lodge Inn near Purdue campus."
At that time, some student leaders at Purdue CSSA and those students who were dedicated to democracy in China invited many pro-democracy activists, such as the famous dissident Dr. Wang Bingzhang, to give talks at the university on China's future, but those events made the consulate very upset. From time to time the consular officials met with the members of the Party committee to find counter measures.
Professor Xie said, "Even prior to the student democracy movement in 1989, Chinese students at Purdue openly demanded that an independent student body be set up, free from the control of the Consulate. During the annual election, candidates stated that student leaders should not be the ones who were serving as secret informants for the consulate, and that we should get rid of the agents of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and set up a truly independent student body at Purdue. As a result, independent candidates won the elections, and the CSSA at Purdue became a real independent student group."
Around the time of a large-scale demonstration in support of the democracy movement of June 4, 1989, hundreds of Chinese student leaders from over 40 universities and colleges in 11 states in the Midwest, including Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Iowa, gathered at Purdue, and officially established the American Midwest Chinese Student and Scholars Solidarity Union, Purdue was the first chairmanship university and Frank Xie was elected the first Chief Executive.
Thereafter, more universities and colleges in the U.S. formed their own independent associations of Chinese students and scholars, and the control from the Chinese consulates was nearly stopped.
Professor Xie added, "Chinese students became awakened in the midst of the student movements in China and an international pro-democracy movement, and they all wanted to rid themselves of the control of the CCP and its consulates. All those students who stood up at that time were all opposed to the CCP and the Tiananmen Square massacre.
"Almost overnight, the CCP lost its control over the student bodies in U.S. universities and colleges. Those student leaders who were loyal to the consulates probably were touched and moved by students in Tiananmen, felt guilty of what they did, or somewhat afraid, so at that time those Communist controlled CSSAs were all replaced by independent federations," said Xie.
Spies Help Break-up Independent Groups
According to Professor Xie, after independent Chinese student groups were established, the Chinese embassy didn't give up. It controlled other students and had them form other student organizations, with an attempt to continue to exert their influence. For example, it formed a new organization at Purdue called "Purdue Zhonghua Club." Its officially stated goal was to enrich students' lives through entertainment and food.
"But we knew that they were supported by the Chinese Consulate. It was propped up by CCP members. What they say on the surface is that they are for the benefit of the students and are 'not-involved in politics', but we know their real purpose, which is against the pro-democracy movement and against the June 4th students," said Xie.
Xie said, "Purdue Zhonghua Club received funding from the Chinese Consulate to host parties and show movies from China. At that time, it was rare to get videotapes of newly released movies from China. So, many students were attracted to it. The Consulate controlled the student bodies through giving money and things such as new movies to a certain group or withholding these things, at their discretion."
Xie said that according to his friends in the democracy movement, from the very beginning, the FBI had been investigating all of the student activities supported by the Chinese embassy and consulates, including those of the Zhonghua Club.
At the same time, Xie also noticed spies were active within the American Midwest Chinese Student and Scholars Solidarity Union. Student agents inside the organization instigated conflicts among them, leading students to fight for profits and fame, and causing friction. He said, "The tactics used were very familiar—they were exactly the same as what the CCP is good at using."
"In June 1989, we organized a 5,000-person rally in a lake front park of downtown Chicago, to support the student movement in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. The former U.S. Senator from Illinois, Mr. Paul Simon, gave a speech to express support from the American people to pro-democracy students in China.
"I was the host of the rally, and an agent of the Chinese Communist government unplugged the power to our sound system. At the rally, dozens of former members of CCP announced their decision to quit party membership, to protest against the massacre. They signed their names on a big sheet of paper. We noticed some suspicious people taking photos of those who quit and their names and signatures."
By then, Mr. Xie was told that his name was on a "blacklist" of 50 democracy advocates and leaders of the independent federations. Around 1990, when Xie's passport was about to expire, he went to the Chinese Consulate in Chicago to renew it, only to see his request denied. The consulate official did not give a reason, just said that it was "according to directives from higher up." "For a while, I was a person with no nationality," said Xie.
Today's Student Groups
"Most leaders of the independent Chinese student groups graduated around 1990 and 1991. As they left campus, the CCP returned. The Chinese students who came out of China later did not have the same experience we had. Inside China, people were brainwashed about the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Everyone was forced to deny the validity of the movement and to renounce it publicly. The massacre itself was also gradually forgotten.
"This led to the deterioration of independent student associations, and the CCP gradually strengthened its control. Later on, even 'political assignments' such as the persecution of Falun Gong, were extended to campuses in the United States," recalled Xie.
"Around the time of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, under the then global climate of opinion, students were able to see [the nature of the CCP] more clearly. Their sense of justice and social conscience were evoked. Grassroots organizations, such as the independent federations, were formed. It was hard for the CCP to assert its influence.
"But since then, the drive for democracy has gradually diminished. At the same time, students became weary of being at odds with the embassy and consulates, for fear that they would run into trouble when renewing their passports or visiting family members in China. The student organizations have also been bought out by interest groups and even fought continuously for self-interest. The situation was very different."
Xie said that from what he has seen, current leaders of the student organizations were all "appointed" by the Chinese consulates. Before, those under the direct control of the consulates didn't always appear as heads of student organizations, although they were active participants of these organizations. But now, they are actively fighting for the most important positions. Xie said,
"When I ran for positions in the student organization, I was almost by myself. But very soon, I realized that my opponent had some forces behind them, which was the support of the invisible 'party committee.' The 'committee' decides who should win the election. After the person was decided, various people from that committee would start to lobby and push for that person through different channels."
"Back then, 'patriotism' was often used as the driving force for CCP loyalists to run for positions in student groups. Nowadays, as the reputation of Communism in China is rapidly deteriorating, and their ideology falling apart, these student leaders are mostly driven by self interest," said Xie.
Xie believes that Chinese students in the United States today are more pragmatic and interest-driven than 20 years ago. He pointed out that, in general, students from China only wanted to finish their education here and go back to China, and they don't necessarily know the inner workings of the student groups or clubs at their school.
According to Xie, today's Chinese students care more about themselves and generally lack a sense of justice and a sense of responsibility to society. They also lack compassion towards weaker and discriminated groups in society.
"They have not been able to learn the best of the Western cultural tradition, but have instead brought the worst tactics and practices of the Communist Party to democratic societies. That is truly troublesome," said Xie.
Nonetheless, Xie concluded the interview on a positive note. He hopes to see the students from China learn the ideals of freedom and democracy from the West, and apply them back in China. He also hopes that Chinese students are clear about the criminal acts of the CCP and its agents and would understand that the real hope and future of China does not lie with the Party.