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New South Wales

Nov 8, 2013

Master Shang's bogus student group blackballed after Crikey probe

A two-part Crikey investigation into an illegitimate overseas student group accused of scams and rorts has led to an unprecedented government crackdown.


safety card

The O’Farrell government, all 11 New South Wales universities, the NSW Police and four leading NSW museums have issued an unprecedented all-points alert warning international students about a phoney representative organisation controlled by a mysterious Chinese millionaire.

After a doublepronged Crikey investigation shone a spotlight on the campus activities of the so-called “National Liaison Committee for International Students”, run by Chinatown venture capitalist Jan “Master” Shang, NSW authorities have sprung into action, issuing a grave joint statement this morning denouncing the group and its activities.

The NSW Office of Fair Trading has launched a high-level investigation into Shang’s bogus “Safety Card”, issued by NLC subsidiary the “Overseas Students Association”, which claims to offer students non-existent discounts at a range of Sydney museums and cultural institutions and, even more seriously, extra protection from police. It will probe alleged breaches of Australian consumer laws.

NSW Deputy Premier and Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Stoner said the government was acting now to ensure the safety and welfare of international students, worth billions each year to the state’s economy:

“The OSA is purporting to represent international students in NSW, however, it is not supported or recognised by the NSW government, education providers, industry peak bodies or international student organisations.”

“We have acted swiftly to protect our international students with a co-ordinated response across government and the education sector to the activities of the OSA which have raised some serious concerns. NSW values international students, and we are honoured that they opt to study in our state at our fine educational institutions. We are determined to ensure they can study, work and play in a safe and friendly environment.”

Crikey revealed two weeks ago that Shang’s acolytes had been told to disperse from the University of NSW after students complained that they had been told to provide their passport numbers and visa expiry dates in the lead-up to student elections, a “strongly discouraged” practice that “is in most cases prohibited”.

The joint statement says the use of official NSW government logos and watermarks on the OSA website were not approved and infringed trademark rights. It slams suggestions that the Safety Card provides an extra police protection:

“Holding an OSA Safety Card does not deliver any immediate additional benefits for international students when dealing with NSW Police. International students should ring Police directly to report crimes and if it is urgent, call 000.”

The convener of the powerful NSW Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, Professor Caroline McMillen, says the 11 universities came together to tackle the activities of the OSA on their campuses as reports of threats and bullying piled up. “We do not recognise the OSA as an organisation operating in the best interests of international students,” she said.

“The OSA has disrupted student elections, there have been many reports of threatening and bullying behaviour, and some OSA representatives have been banned from campuses. We welcome co-ordinated action across government and the education sector to protect the interests of our international students.”

The warning confirms the status of the Council of International Students Australia as the legitimate peak representative body for international students around the country. CISA national president Thomson Ch’ng says international students have been intimidated and that he had personally received intimidating calls.

Last week, Crikey revealed that a former Shang entity, Student Administration Pty Ltd, had collapsed in 2009 owing the Australian Communications and Media Authority over $170,000 for the lease of telephone numbers. A month before liquidators were appointed, Shang resigned his directorship, replacing himself with a younger underling, Mark Choo. ASIC searches revealed a web of companies controlled by the self-proclaimed svengali, who has admitted he helped organise protests against Tibetan activists during the 2008 Olympic Torch relay.

Shang, who has refused to condemn the Tiananmen Square massacre, did not respond to email queries this morning. However, Choo issued a bizarre statement detailing unsuccessful contact with public figures including federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne, federal education secretary Lisa Paul and Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane.

He said the NLC had “decided” to submit a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission and would “go to Chinese media in China to expose this despicable act if we can not [sic] get fair reporting in Australia”. In the statement, NLC national convener Sun ShuYang took aim at the NSW Deputy Premier and claimed the NLC had the power to decide where international students spend their money:

“I can not understand why Andrew Stoner wants to be the public enemy of the Chinese, the Indian, the Muslim and all other Multicultural Communities in Australia by defaming NLC and our SAFETYCard program to protect the safety of our International Students. Our NLCommunity contributes $5.5 billion to NSW’s economy, we will decide whether International Students come to study in NSW or spend the money elsewhere.”

“I am the Public Officer of Council of International Students Australia. CISA has been receiving funding from NLC since May 2012. Andrew Stoner needs to check the facts right [sic], NLC is currently taking legal action against Thomson Ch’ng for his illegal use of CISA name in NSW.”


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18 thoughts on “Master Shang’s bogus student group blackballed after Crikey probe

  1. Raaraa

    It disgusts me to know of private companies perpetrating to be some sort of official-looking “student body” to trick overseas students into thinking that they are some sort of official authority claiming to help students.

    I remembered a few years back helping a friend who’s just arrived here to study in a uni in an eastern Melbourne suburb. She was looking for a student apartment and there was this real estate company that had a near complete monopoly on student housing. It had a name that sounded like an official body, and any new arrivals none the wiser would have thought that they operated either out of a university or government department.

    My friend was rather picky with her choice of place and made many questions and inspections to the point that this single agency boycotted her and no longer wanted to help her. In the end I was able to help my friend find a student accommodation with one of the few apartments that was actually managed by a different real estate agency.

    Funny thing was that the owner of this apartment actually approached two agencies to help advertise this place. Straight after moving in, an agent from the dodgy agency I mentioned before came for a visit not knowing that this place have been taken up!

  2. Gavin Moodie

    Perth’s Curtin University’s housing advisory service maintains a database of off campus accommodation it recommends. It also offers a free and impartial tenancy advice service about rental issues, such as contract or bond disputes between its students and landlords.

  3. Exactly!

    This story is a beat-up. With all the corruptions out there why does Crikey choose to get tough on Master Chan. Honestly, what’s the point and who cares? You are wasting my subscription money on trivia like this.

    Go Master Chan!

  4. TheFamousEccles

    Good ‘ol Oz, eh? You can be assured that if individuals like Sun ShuYang made statements like the above back home they at the very least be invited to please explain to some level of bureaucrat, possibly even “actively discouraged”…

    You have to admire the balls, it takes a lot of front to attempt a confidence trick like this. I look forward to the next instalment!

  5. TheFamousEccles

    @ Exactly!

    A beat-up? So, misrepresentation, infringement of copyright, alleged infringements of consumer laws, threats to individuals and the offer of non-existent “extra police protection” to card holders are trivial matters?

    Sounds to me you may be close to the action – how has “Master Chan” elicited your loyalty?

  6. Exactly!

    Famous Eccles

    Crikey is a terrier on the tail of a beat up. It is student politics. Who cares?

    In the meantime proper corruptions, Reserve Bank corruptions, lying to go to war type corruptions, businessmen buying their way into Parliament corruptions, politician’s rorting privileges corruptions, the threat to democracy from our media monopolies etc., (the list is as long as a piece of string) go addressed.

    Master Chan is a businessman. Why can’t he set up an alternative student association?

    The reaction to what he has done is extreme. It smacks of bullying. Whose interests has he threatened to cause such a response?

    And yes, the allegations are trivial. In the broader context, this investigation is a waste of time (and my subscription money).

  7. Buddy

    I note Exactly didnt answer your question though TheFamousEccles.. hmmmm

  8. John Taylor

    Hey Exactly – how come you are shilling for Master Chan – do you have a financial or other interest in his enterprise?

  9. Andrew Crook

    Exactly! seems very close to the action vis a vis international student visas.

  10. Exactly!


    I have no financial interest at all. I am a migration lawyer and follow the antics of the international education sector at a distance.

    International students face enough issues with overpriced courses and exploitative employment relationships in ‘international student’ dominated industries. There is mess of students out there working cash in hand in breach of their visa conditions to pay for their studies.

    Then recent policy changes have more explicitly linked studies to migration options as a way of enticing international students (and their dollars) to Australia.

    These policies are building a pool of temporary resident graduates who will be desperate to find a sponsor, a good thing for companies wanting to pay kids nothing, and a very bad thing for Australian graduates. There will be a back lash against this, you watch.

    The link between migration outcomes and studies has been snatched away before, funnily enough at about the same time as the Indian students protested in Melbourne, and those kids need a voice or voices to represent their interests.

    The Australian education industry is powerful and I am sympathetic to Master Chan even if he was misguided in how he did his work. I am more suspicious of the gung ho reaction of the industry, police state, and media.

    Crikey thinks it is being so “Walkley” when it is just cheap annoying one-sided journalism. I want to see Crikey taking on proper issues or I may as well go back to reading the Telegraph.

    And that is my main gripe.

  11. Shaun Lambert


    This story is definitely not a beat-up. While it may be trivial in terms of its relationship to student politics (despite the amounts of money that would’ve changed hands had his preference deals eventuated ,in the 10’s of thousands of dollars), in terms of the international student industry it isn’t trivial at all. Why otherwise would the NSW govt be responding at such a high level to it?

    Where and how has Master Shang been defamed?

    And business people can piss off out of student politics, it’s not fair and nor is it appropriate for student politics to be funded either by so much money or by interests so opaque.

  12. Shaun Lambert

    And I’d like to add that I was at the UTS elections, working as a poll clerk and we were warned about the OSA. It was serious.

  13. Exactly!


    Why exactly did the NSW Government intervene?

    That’s the whole point. They have a lucrative industry selling credentials to vulnerable young to protect.

    And you may not realise it but courtesy of the selling of Australian education the privatisation of Australian universities is suddenly not unthinkable.

    How much would Melbourne University (my alma mata) be worth to the Victorian Government and why should it stay in state hands? The answer is it would be worth a fortune and it is already partially privatised.

    There are real issues out there, and I have alluded to some of them in the looming privatisation of the universities, the exploitation of international students at work, and the luring of international students to their doom (and that of Australian graduates) through the link with migration that are being ignored.

    Address these not the issue of Master Chan and his posturing.

    Adult politics is corrupt and provides fertile ground for populist independent journalism yet why does Crikey focus on this kind of issue?

    Give the lad a Walkley! Ha!

    You all seem to think I am on the take from Master Chan (and I kind of wish I was) and none of you have responded to my main point.

    Get on the job, for crying out loud, and go and investigate a real scandal!

  14. John Taylor

    Well – as a migration lawyer you may have an interest, albeit an indirect one I might suggest. Have you ever had any business with any students who have had dealings or involvement with Master Chan? Have you acted in any professional capacity in respect of those people or Master Chan or his organisations? This is not about being on the take, you understand, and your posts carry a shrillness that is a mix of “look! over there!” and the Shakespearean “doth protest too much”. Maybe you ought go back to the Tele. Crikey seems to be a bit too robust. What Crikey has picked up on is an unprecedented response across Government. You then use expressions like “police state”. Get off the grass. No smoke without fire and Crikey is well within its charter taking a good look at it and without the sensationalism that would attend the Tele or a Fairfax production. Maybe Four Corners will have a look?

  15. Exactly!

    No John

    I have never had any dealings with Master Chan and had never heard of him before. You are too quick to put me on the pay roll to discredit the argument.

    You say Crikey picked up on an ‘unprecedented response across Government’. Well, perhaps Crikey was alerted or enlisted by the Government to provide the scoop on the story. The purpose of Crikey’s expose has clearly been to discredit Master Chan and his organisation, an effort consistent with the agenda of the industry and Government.

    So now I have to ask, who of my critics is on the payroll of the international education industry? Is Andrew Crook being fed information to run his sensational ‘probe’? Is this another example of lazy journalism with the sources of the information not being disclosed?

    And what is your role, why are you so keen to defend the actions of the industry and the government by making the assumption that because the response across government is unprecedented Master Chan must be a villain?

    It seems you should be reading the Telegraph.

    You seem to hope that Four Corners will run a mini-series on the subject, to clarify once and for all the facts of the matter. Well, if it is anything like the award winning expose of Captain Ahmad, the people smuggler, great gangs of ABC journalists will chase Master Chan around a shopping centre car park as it did Captain Ahmad, persecuting him as he went about his job rounding up shopping trolleys and shoving cameras into the faces of his family members as they flung their ‘gotcha’ accusations at him.

    These kinds of journalisms are frankly crap. Award winning crap.

    Both this Crikey ‘probe’ and the award winning Four Corners episode are examples of the media willingly becoming the mouth piece of Government. The consequence is that the real questions are not being asked.

    In this case, I still cannot see that Master Chan and his OSA have broken the law. I can see that the O’Farrell government, all 11 New South Wales universities, the NSW Police and four leading NSW museums all see him as some kind of threat to their business model.

    What the hell do four leading museums have to do with it?

    But mostly I see that the NSW Police intervened in a student election by ejecting the OSA from the campus. Is that not an abuse of their civil liberties?

    That’s where Crikey should start, and I would like to hear what Andrew Crook has to say.

  16. AR

    Methinkst Exactly doth protest too muchly. Certainly too verbosely, always a dead give-away with astroturfers, flacks & shills. Veracity needs few words.

  17. Exactly!

    What’s a flack?

    I have said exactly what I wanted to say, more or less. I have asked serious questions about the article and the relationships between the journalist and the Government and the broader international education industry.

    Mostly I have expressed concern about Crikey devoting resources to this story, given the array of other more significant corruptions out there.

    No-one has responded to the substance of my points, but instead made defensive accusations that I am being paid to comment or am a flack or a shill.

    Or that I used too many words!

    Play the ball and not the man, for heaven’s sake. In fact, go away and have a good hard look at yourselves, the lot of you. And next time the police are dismantling your election campaign, hopefully some shill will ask why.

    I am retiring. Flacks to all of you!

  18. Diana Cavanagh

    Commentators below should care; this man has his fingers in a lot of pots, immigration, legal aid, visa issues, etc etc for example: Stage 3: Legal Access
    On state level, Legal Access provides assistance and representation services to International Students through Legal Aid and NLCommunity Lawyers Network.
    LEGAL AID? for international students??? excuse me, but its
    TAX payers money!. Also offers probono assistance from a law firm…all tied up in a neat little bow!…what’s he up too???


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