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Chicago professors demand end to dubious Confucian Institute ties

Chicago University

(TibetanReview.net, May18, 2014) – Accusing it of indirectly placing schools under Beijing’s grip, a group of 108 professors at the University of Chicago have demanded that the latter kick out its Confucius Institute, a Beijing-affiliated language and culture center, reported the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) May 15. Launching a petition, the professors have demanded that the university break ties with the Confucius Institute Headquarters in Hanban city, which is administrated by China’s Education Ministry, when their five-year contract expires in Sep 2014.

The “dubious practice” of allowing Hanban to “have a voice in the research and curriculum”, the professors were quoted as having written in the petition, had compromised the academic integrity of the university, and subjected its staff members and students to Beijing’s “political constraints on free speech and belief”.

The university’s student newspaper, The Chicago Maroon, also carried a report by Tyler Kissinger and Max Samels, explaining the case against having ties with the Confucius Institute. The report has noted that “the curricula and programming put on by Confucius institutes avoid any discussion of more controversial cultural, social, and human rights issues, and it is known that instructors at some universities are trained to change the topic of discussion if and when such issues come up.”

The report also said, “Hanban has been known in the past to adhere to a hiring policy illegal under American law, by prohibiting members of the spiritual movement Falun Gong ‘and other illegal organizations’ from being candidates for a position with a Confucius institute abroad.” And it explained that by yielding to Hanban’s hiring policy, the University was complicit in discrimination both religious and political.

The report pointed out that in 2012, such a case resulted in McMaster University being brought before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, Canada, and the university ultimately terminating the contract for their Confucius institute.

The report further said that from forcing North Carolina State University officials to cancel a planned visit to that campus by the Dalai Lama, to a case where officials at Tel Aviv University shut down a student art exhibition regarding the oppression of the Falun Gong out of fear of damaging the University’s relationship with China and Hanban, elements of censorship and internal pressure to stifle the expression of certain views had manifested themselves in ways incompatible with the intellectual aims of the university.

Hanban’s influence has been growing internationally, nevertheless. The institute had announced in Los Angeles May 8 that it would collaborate with the US College Board, a non-profit that designs and hosts college entrance exams, to open five Confucius Institutes in colleges and 15 Confucius secondary school classrooms in nine US states this year, reported chinadigitaltimes.net May 15.

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