European Interest

Confucius Institutes under scrutiny in UK

Flickr/Lydia Liu/CC BY 2.0
Calligraphy Brushes for lessons at a Confucius Institute.

China’s network of Confucius Institutes, which are often embedded on university campuses around the world, could threaten freedom of expression and national security by extending the presence and influence of the Chinese Communist Party far beyond its borders. This is warning from Britain’s Conservative Party Human Rights commission.

The Commission called for a review of all agreements between British institutions and the Confucius Institutes, saying that Beijing’s educational and cultural centres 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 said.

“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 said in a statement on the Commission’s website.

As reported by Radio Free Europe, the report calls for a freeze on any further agreements with Confucius Institutes pending the proposed review, as well measures to ensure greater transparency and accountability to U.K. institutions and the general public.

The report cites the termination of a number of Confucius Institute contracts by universities around the world. At least 27 universities and one school board have 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 Commission said in a statement.

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