Cops crack down on Master Shang’s group after OS student queries
A student group backed by an enigmatic Chinese millionaire, which purports to represent international university students, has been blackballed by the University of New South Wales and ostracised by the NSW Police force.
Chinatown venture capitalist Master Shang is self-appointed chairman and public officer of the unofficial National Liaison Committee for International Students that claims to be “the national peak body for International Students in Australia”. A subsidiary, the Overseas Students Association, has been campaigning during recent student elections at UNSW and the University of Technology, Sydney.
In a coup, it has stitched up a preference deal with Labor Right clique StandUp! in exchange for more student money, office space and independent recognition. OSA how-to-vote cards preferencing StandUp! are currently circulating at UNSW before polls close tomorrow.
Last week, NSW Police and campus security swooped on OSA campaigners at UNSW after receiving complaints that international students were being asked to disclose their visa expiry dates and passport numbers to sign up for the group’s unofficial “SafetyCard”. The stall was dismantled and representatives were told to disperse. NLC promotional material claims the card is supported by the “Australian Government”, “Australian Police” and the “local Multicultural Community” to create “the national safety network for International Students”. Callers to the Safety Card 1300 number are told in an emergency to quote their Safety Card number in dealings with police.
The OSA recently launched a new website featuring the coat of arms of eight Australian states and territories lifted from official government websites. The NSW government has taken action to have its logo removed.
Master Shang, who also goes by the name Jan, referred our queries to an underling. A statement sent to Crikey by NLC “Communication Executive” Mark Choo stated that an “an internal investigation is under way for the incidents at UNSW by Eastern Beaches Local Area Command”. However, NSW Police told Crikey that no such investigation was underway. Choo went on to claim that Eastern Beaches Commander Gavin Dangate had called Shang “to confirm NSW Police’s support of the Safety Card program”. NSW Police told Crikey it does not endorse the card.
Choo also said Master Shang had “contacted” UNSW Deputy Vice Chancellor Neil Morris to complain about the campus incident. But a UNSW spokesperson told Crikey this morning that Morris had not spoken to Shang for two years. According to Choo, Morris had “talked with Mr Shang before on behalf of UNSW Vice-Chancellor Frederick Hilmer”.
It is likely that OSA representatives will be elected to power this week. An email sent by OSA ticket contact Sylvia Huang to StandUp! negotiator and John Robertson electorate officer Ed McDougall on Saturday, obtained by Crikey, outlines the terms of the preference deal. The OSA says it requires office space, $75,000 in cash and “independent” OSA operation in exchange for its support.
However, McDougall forwarded Crikey an email sent late last night by StandUp! presidential candidate Dorothy Rapsiardi refuting specific details of the deal. The cash component would be impossible to honour under union rules, and the position of International Student Officer should be an elected office bearer, not a representative of OSA.
A University of NSW spokesperson distanced the hallowed institution from the NLC this morning:
“the UNSW does not endorse the OSA’s Safety Card. The Council of International Students Australia is the peak body for international students nationally, not the OSA or NLC. The University does not interfere in the SRC elections. However any statements that guarantee funding are misleading and factually incorrect. SRC funding is an issue for the CEO and Board of the student organisation Arc. Further, Arc would not sponsor space on campus for OSA as they are not a recognised body.”
The history of the NLC and Master Shang is intriguing. In 2008, Shang and a group of acolytes assumed control of the group, first founded in 1986. It set about campaigning around the safety of Chinese students following a number of purported incidents.
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