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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.

Andrew Crook — Former <em>Crikey</em> Senior Journalist

Andrew Crook

Former Crikey Senior Journalist

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.