Indiana University students enraged after Hong Kong protestor is invited to speak

After Joshua Wong, a prominent Hong Kong protester, was invited to speak by the IU Student Government, many students disparaged Wong, the event, and the student government.

The students complained that the event violated Chinese students’ rights, advocated terrorism, and was offensive for the Chinese student population.

After the Indiana University Student Government (IUSG) invited Joshua Wong, a Hong Kong activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, to speak about his struggles for freedom and democracy in Hong Kong, many Chinese and non Chinese students alike began to disparage Wong, the event, and the student government. Some students went so far as to allegedly threaten members of the IU Student Government.

During the event, Wong, who faces up to five years in prison due to his involvement with the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, spoke about the importance of free speech, his struggles for freedom, and the oppressive Chinese regime that has committed countless atrocities and human rights abuses.

However, many IU Students, largely those studying abroad from China, lambasted the event, stating that it “violated Chinese Students [sic]” and “advocate[d] terrorism.” In an email to the Indiana University Office of International Services, the IU chapter of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), an organization with strong ties to Beijing and the Chinese Communist Party, denigrated and attacked both the event and the student government.

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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.”

The group also claimed that Wong encouraged “Hong Kong people to use violations against the police, the government authorities, and supporting to split Hong Kong apart from China [sic].”

A number of student congressmen also voiced their disapproval of the event. 

Tianshuo Bai, a student congressman from China, condemned the event for its “negative impact on thousands of Chinese students included [sic] me.” He demanded that “IUSG gives [sic] a statement to more [sic] than 2000 Chinese students at IU.” Bai additionally claimed that “Hong Kong is, and will always be a part of People’s Republic of China [sic]” and asserted that the student government is “destroying the relationships [sic] between Chinese students and Indiana University.”

However, some IUSG congress members defended Wong and the event. 

Mathew Ahmann, an IU student congressman, stated that “China is not adhering to the one country two systems agreement. China deals in bad faith and doesn’t respect human rights. I stand with Hong Kong against the communist party of China. I hope we can all stand up for democracy.” 

Ahmann continued, saying, “I would like to also condemn the communist party’s violations of human rights in Hong Kong and with Uighur Muslims being held in internment camps. We have a responsibility as IUSG to stand in solidarity with human rights.”

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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. 

Others took to Twitter to disparage the event, IUSG, and Wong. 

In response to the event, one user tweeted “Why do you advocate terrorism? And to you who invited him: you’d better know what your decision will cause.” Another user tweeted that Wong “is not the [sic] activist, instead he is a terrorist.” 

A self-identified alumnus of Indiana University tweeted“First time feel so shame [sic] of being an IU alumni. Joshua Wang [sic] is a terrorist, not an activist.” Several students simply tweeted “Shame on IUSG” in response to the student government’s hosting of the event.

Despite the harsh criticism of the IU Student government and of the event, IUSG President Rachel Aranyi stands behind the organization’s decision to host Joshua Wong. 

Aranyi told Campus Reform, “IUSG firmly supports free speech and academic freedom. Students are entitled to express their opinions about the event and Wong, but we stand behind our decision to have him speak. We encourage students to seek out more information, examine these topics, and form their own conclusions.”

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Indiana University, which receives over $80 million per year from tuition and fees paid by Chinese students, has yet to issue any response to the criticism surrounding the event and IUSG.

Indiana University and the CSSA did not respond to a request for comment. 

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