Arrangements made for a Chinese New Year's celebration in 2004 by a former president of the University of Minnesota Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) set in motion a series of events that illustrate how Chinese consular officials control and manipulate Chinese students in the United States.
That control includes using Chinese students to fight here in the United States those the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) considers its enemies and acting as spies for the CCP. It involves both open and subtle intimidation, and the payment of bribes.
Mr. You Yunqing had been president in 2002-2003 of the UM CSSA and in 2004 he was a member of the association's standing committee.
On the night of Jan. 26, 2004 two members of the education department of the Chicago Consulate named Mr. Cheng Jiacai and Mr. Jiang Bo hosted a dinner for dozens of members of the UM association.
After that dinner, Cheng and Jiang complained to You, "Our consulate is very busy. We are currently managing over sixty student associations in the United States. If every association behaved like yours, how would we be able to handle them all?
"The UM Students Association has always been good in following our directives. Why is there such a disruption now?"
The "disruption" that Cheng and Jiang referred to included plans for the annual UM CSSA celebration of the Chinese New Year that You was organizing, which was to take place on Jan. 31. You had advertised the event in The Epoch Times.
That advertisement set off alarms at the Chinese Consulate. The Epoch Times has been a target of the CCP from the first day it was published in 2000. It prints honest, uncensored reports on human rights abuses, democracy activists, and the persecution of Falun Gong—among other topics the CCP considers sensitive. Its staff includes Falun Gong adherents. Several Epoch Times reporters sit in Chinese prisons.
Cheng called You immediately, questioned him about the advertisement, and told him not to allow Falun Gong adherents to take part in the New Year celebration.
Cheng also sent emails to members of the standing committee of the UM CSSA and invited students to the Jan. 26 dinner. At that dinner, the consulate officials lead a discussion of the New Year celebration.
Struggle with Falun Gong
Ms. Wang Xiaodan and Mr. Chi Xuedong were both at that dinner. Both practice Falun Gong.
You recalled that after Wang and Chi left, Cheng started attacking Falun Gong. Cheng directed the students to sever all relationships with Falun Gong adherents, to proactively fight Falun Gong, and to interfere with Falun Gong-related activities.
According to You, Cheng said, "If Falun Gong holds activities at the university, you should protest against it to show your opposition."
Cheng continued, "The Chinese Consulate is your only supporter in the United States and only the consulate can represent you here if there are legal problems during your time as a student."
"Everyone knew that I practiced Falun Gong," said Wang. "But the staff from the consulate never said anything in front of me, only behind my back."
After discussion with the consular officials, the president at that time, Ms. Zhang Xiaowu, resigned. An election was quickly arranged for Feb. 7.
Ms. Wang decided to campaign for president. Opposing her was Mr. Li Meng.
According to You, Wang "had been a student association committee member for two years. She was enthusiastic in helping others and she provided many services to her fellow students."
You says that Li "didn't do much work within the Students Association. One year before I was elected president, he was a vice-president."
The voter turnout was very heavy. According to You, "All of a sudden over one hundred people showed up to vote. There had never been so many voters for a CSSA election. Even when the student association presents movies, there were never so many participants."
Li made a speech and said, "Falun Gong wants to take control of the CSSA."
However, Li's electioneering had begun early that morning. Using the pseudonym "Happy Dawn," he had posted a message on the MIT BBS, a BBS popular among Chinese students in mainland China and outside China. That message said, "If we do not take action, Falun Gong will take over the CSSA, Let's go to stop Falun Gong from occupying the CSSA..."
He then sent the same message anonymously to all of the Chinese students at the University of Minnesota. Li also asked Chinese students to forward his e-mail to their friends at the University.
When Wang addressed the crowd, several people became disruptive and attempted to shout her down.
A woman who did not practice Falun Gong who voted for Wang was called a Falun Gong practitioner and criticized.
According to Wang, after Li was elected, a total of nine students resigned, giving various excuses. Some of them said that they didn't want to accept the CCP's control of the election. Many said that they could no longer put up with having their activities monitored by the CCP. Wang said, "Because students all want to live a peaceful life, they could no longer tolerate being constantly called on by the consulate for various inquiries. In order to avoid trouble, students gradually resigned."
Spies on Campus
You said, "The resignation of the Student's Association President Zhang, and the sudden emergence of Li was all arranged by the CCP. The night before the election, the CCP called the members of the student association. "Many students from the CSSA told me very frankly that they had family members in mainland China and were reluctant to disobey directives from the consulate."
Wang believes that the behavior of the students that attempted to shout her down when she was speaking does not reflect the behavior of the typical Chinese student. She believes that such rude behavior more accurately represents actions similar to thugs from mainland China. "I was very surprised," said Wang, "How could the University of Minnesota have such students?"
Later Wang heard from others that this particular group of students had always lingered on campus, never graduating. They jumped from one department to another. According to what Wang heard, the CCP had sent this and similar groups of students to establish themselves at various universities, in order to carry out the CCP's orders. Paid by the CCP, their sole purpose is spy on other Chinese students.
You said, "I heard the Chinese consulate appointed one or two people in a student association at a university to listen to their orders and to spy."
Bribing the President
According to You, "In a way, the student organizations function as spy organizations. Once the president of a student association is appointed, he has to do the work assigned by the consulates, otherwise he will be forced out."
"I was an exception," said You with a smile on his face. "Maybe the consulate at the beginning had an oversight and didn't know about my background of participating in the student movement for democracy in 1989. After they discovered my background, they started to control the UM CSSA more rigorously."
You said that since the UM CSSA was first formed in 1984, all its activities had been funded by the Chinese consulate. You's first contact with the association was as a volunteer in 2001.
In May 2002, he was elected as the president. Soon after, the former president introduced him to Cheng Jiacai. During the year that You was the president, Cheng mailed him a total amount of $3,000 via checks under his name. You immediately transferred the money to the account of the Student Association.
"In fact, the so-called activity funds given by the consulate were not given to the student association," said You.
"Instead, the funds were given to the president individually. The check was made payable directly to the president. This is not public. The checks are a direct bribe to the president. The consulate withholds checks if their directives are not followed by the president."
Commenting on the presidential election in 2004, You said, "Li suddenly ran for election on the platform that he was anti-Falun Gong. The results of this student election were political and did not represent what the students wanted."
"I once organized an activity, inviting Falun Gong practitioner Mr. Zhang Erping to give a speech," said You. "The consulate told me that in the future, such activities require their direct approval.
"After the consulate discovered my background, they no longer assigned me any political tasks. Instead they started to monitor my daily activities and correspondence.
"But the consulate assigned tasks to the presidents prior to me and after me, such as protesting against the visit of the Dalai Lama, directing students to write letters and signing letters to protest activities of other organizations. There were many similar political activities. Except, when I was the president, there were none."
You continued, "According to my understanding, this is systematic control. From the mid-west Chinese Students Associations (formed by presidents of Student Associations from each university in the midwest), the consulate assigned them tasks.
"For example, in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign under the guidance of the consulate, the president of the CSSA went to an international art festival to remove Taiwan flags held by Taiwanese Students, which caused conflicts. There were also student associations in other universities who held anti-Falun Gong exhibitions under the guidance of the consulate."
Revised June 26, 2007