UK’s ruling party’s rights body seeks review of Confucius Institutes on university campuses

February 22, 2019 1:28 am0 commentsViews: 124

Confucius Institute at the Manchester University in UK. (Photo courtesy: FB/Confucius Institute, MU)

(TibetanReview.net, Feb21’19) – The human right commission of Britain’s ruling Conservative Party has called for a review of all agreements between British institutions and the Confucius Institutes run by a body under China’s Ministry of Education, reported the Mandarin Service of rfa.org Feb 19. It has said the institutes could threaten freedom of expression and national security by extending the presence and influence of the Chinese Communist Party far beyond its borders.

The commission has said these educational and cultural centers have already given rise to incidents of censorship or suppression of discussion. “The evidence we received raises very serious questions about the influence which Confucius Institutes may have in British universities and schools,” Commission chair and MP Fiona Bruce was quoted as saying.

“We welcome and encourage language teaching and cultural exchange, but we believe a review is necessary to assess whether Confucius Institutes represent a threat to academic freedom, freedom of expression, other basic rights and indeed national security,” Bruce has said in a statement posted on the Commission’s website.

The report cited US university professors as saying that while Confucius Institutes may appear at first glance to resemble the British Council, the Goethe Institut, or the Alliance Franςaise, their potential threat to academic freedom lies specifically in the fact that they base themselves out of universities.

The report quotes former Chinese Communist Party propaganda czar Li Changchun as having described Confucius Institutes as “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up,” and Hanban director-general Xu Lin as saying: “Confucius Institutes … are an important part of soft power. Because we want to expand our influences, we do not deny this.”

Hanban is a body under the direct control of China’s Ministry of Education with its own embedded party committee and to which the Confucius Institutes report.

The report cited Zhang Tao, media and communications lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, as saying Confucius Institutes “allow the Chinese authorities to gain a foothold for the exercise of control over the study of China and the Chinese language.”

“From its organization and funding to textbooks and staff, the Confucius Institute is an extension of the Chinese education system, directly controlled by the state and having the same ideological and propaganda roles as schools and universities in China,” Zhang has said.

The report noted that the week before, US Senators Marco Rubio and Catherine Cortez Masto had reintroduced legislation aimed at countering Chinese government influence operations in the US, including especially through its Confucius Institute.

“This bipartisan bill will raise awareness about the threat Chinese government interference poses to democratic societies around the world, while also preparing our government to develop policy solutions that protect our political processes and our national security,” Masto has said.

The commission was reported to have noted that at least 27 universities and one school board had already cut ties with Confucius Institutes, including Stockholm University, Copenhagen Business School, Stuttgart Media University, the University of Hohenheim,  the University of Lyon, the University of Chicago, Pennsylvania University, the University of Michigan, McMaster University, and the Toronto School Board.

The report, based on testimony from academics, former diplomats, human rights activists and researchers, was also stated to highlight the banning of discussion by Confucius Institutes of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, Tibet ,and Taiwan.

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