Do Chinese Students in the U.S. Have Academic Freedom?

Narration: In 1968, the American Association of University Professors published a Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students. It states, “Students and student organizations should feel free to examine and discuss all questions of interest to them and to express options publicly and privately. They should always be free to support causes by orderly means which do not disrupt the regular and essential operation of the institution.”

Narration: Many Chinese international students don’t enjoy these rights. The Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) is the official Chinese international student organization. In 2004, Chinese Consulate officials from Chicago went to the University of Minnesota to intervene in CSSA activities.

Simone Gao: Chris was on the CSSA board at the time. I had a discussion with him about what happened back then. For security reasons, he asked us to not show his face or publish his last name.

Simone Gao: So Chris, tell me what happened to the CSSA when you were on the board of it.

Chris: When I was [in] the student governing body for the Chinese Student Scholars Association at the University of Minnesota, in my conversation with the president at the time, he said he’s getting contact from the Chinese Consulate based in Chicago, and he’s getting even funding from them. It was through a check that’s directly deposited into his personal account. So I don’t know if there’s any record or tracking, but he’s getting money from the consulate in Chicago, he’s getting phone calls, he’s getting different directions from the consulate.

Simone Gao: In 2004, a Chinese student who practices Falun Gong campaigned to be the CSSA president at the University of Minnesota. Something happened when Chinese officials heard that she practiced Falun Gong, right, tell me about it?

Chris: She’s very, very enthusiastic to serve the students at the university. So she decided to campaign for the president post. Obviously, it was not secret that she was practicing. It was known to everybody, including the consulate people. So then I think there was a couple of weeks after that dinner hosted by the communist Consulate from Chicago, a Chinese student from the University of Minnesota who used to serve in the association before, several years ago, all of a sudden put up a social media post in one of the websites saying he “got the news Falun Gong wanted to take over the Chinese Student and Scholars Association in the University of Minnesota. We cannot let it happen, I decided to run for the president as well, please support me.” And so it was sort of spread across the students within the University of Minnesota. When the election day came, normally there wasn’t many students, Chinese students coming for that kind of election in the past years, but in that particular year, there’s almost a hundred people coming. And I think–we didn’t have hard evidence, but based on the conversation that the Chinese student who run for the president or run for the chairman against the Falun Gong student, there was a strong push from the Chicago consulate asking him to reach out to different Chinese students. And even the consulate officials themselves make phone calls to whoever they knew that are studying in the university.

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