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Chinese student groups are weaponizing wokeness to silence critics of Beijing

‘Student Government is making Chinese students feel uncomfortable,’ harming them

Woke student activists often seem unaware of how their arguments and tactics can be adopted to suppress viewpoints they probably support.

Case in point: Campus chapters of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, which are overseen by the Chinese Communist Party, are using the language of emotional trauma and collective responsibility to silence criticism of Beijing’s policy decisions.

We saw the first inklings of this strategy nearly four years ago, when Chinese students tried to get the Dalai Lama disinvited from the University of California-San Diego.

They were particularly active in 2019, successfully convincing Columbia University to cancel a discussion on China’s human rights violations and joining the broader racial protests against alleged anti-black and anti-Asian graffiti at Syracuse University.

Their alleged activities went too far for a Canadian student government, however, which actually derecognized its CSSA chapter last year for reportedly coordinating with Beijing to protest and harass a Uyghur activist.

Now Indiana University-Bloomington’s CSSA is in another student-government dispute over the hot-button issue of Hong Kong pro-democracy protests.

The Indiana Daily Student reported last month that the student government not only hosted a virtual event with 24-year-old Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, but also went on the record as an organization that “stand[s] with the people of Hong Kong and other pro-democracy movements throughout the world.”

Wong has already gone to prison once, for his Umbrella Revolution activism in 2014, and faces up to five years in prison for protesting against a law that would have made it easier to surveil activist by banning face masks.

MORE: Student government derecognizes CSSA for alleged Uyghur harassment

“It is why I cherish every moment to share this message with you,” he told the virtual event. Wong also talked about being “banned” from running in Hong Kong elections this year and seeing a broader picture when the NBA cracked down on expression of support for anti-Beijing protesters last year.

“Free speech is not only about Hong Kong; it’s about how the global community should react,” he said.

According to Campus Reform, the CSSA didn’t take kindly to this official endorsement by the student government. Note the language taken straight out of the wokeness playbook:

The CSSA referred to the event as a “national disruption activity that violated Chinese Students [sic].” They stated that the “IU Student Government is making Chinese students feel uncomfortable and have been offenses [sic].” The group continued, stating that the decision “is harmful to Chinese students’ rights” and that the IU Student Government should be “responsible for their decision.” The CSSA further claimed that the student government’s actions were “disrespectful for [sic] all students in IU” and violated “the relationship between Chinese people.”

A member of the student government from China, Tianshuo Bai, also claimed the event had a “negative impact on thousands of Chinese students included [sic] me” and accused the student government of “destroying the relationships [sic] between Chinese students and Indiana University.”

Bai implied the student government must issue an apology to the thousands of Chinese students at the university:

During a recent IUSG congressional meeting, Bai and others continued to condemn the event on the grounds that it threatened and offended the Chinese student population at IU, however, no evidence was offered as to how.

While most tweets cited by Campus Reform simply denounced the student government for hosting Wong, calling the activist a “terrorist,” one was more unnerving: “Why do you advocate terrorism? And to you who invited him: you’d better know what your decision will cause.”

MOREHong Kong students face harassment in U.S. over conflict with China

IMAGE: John Lock/Shutterstock

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.