Confucius Institutes, China's influence in British universities
A parliamentary report linked to the Foreign Office denounces "financial, political or diplomatic pressures" that undermine academic freedom. Confucius Institutes silence Taiwan, the Tiananmen massacre, Tibet. Chinese students, supported by their embassy, oppose demonstrations in favor of democracy in Hong Kong or on the rights of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
London (AsiaNews) - Through Confucius Institutes, China is infiltrating universities in the United Kingdom, threatening "academic freedom". This is the heavy accusation present in a report presented last November 5 by the British Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs, entitled "A cautious embrace: defending democracy in an age of autocracies".
The 27-page report shows "financial, political or diplomatic pressures, aimed at manipulating university research or study plans" through direct or indirect financial support, putting "limits on the purposes of the subjects that can be discussed", or with pressure on event organizers "not to invite certain personalities", or to curb "criticism of foreign governments". There are also attempts to solicit "political protests in support of the goals of the [foreign] country".
The Confucius Institutes, a branch of the Chinese Ministry of Education, officially serve to spread the Chinese language and culture abroad. But they have long been suspected of spreading a benevolent and uncritical vision ofChina; to secretly influence the politics of the host nation to favor China; of industrial espionage.
The report recalls that in the United Kingdom there are over 100 thousand Chinese students and that British universities are competing to have them, to increase university enrollments. But all this shows that "China's attempt to internationalize tertiary education is accompanied by local attempts to bend the influence of educational norms and values associated with the West".
Citing testimonies from academics, it is reported that there are Chinese students - supported by their embassy in London - who are stifling the demonstrations in favor of Hong Kong and democracy; that in some conferences, the Confucius Institute has suceeding in banning some interventions that mention Taiwan; that through the Association of Chinese students and professors, it blocks discussions on sensitive issues such as the Tiananmen massacre, Tibet, Uyghurs and Xinjiang. Uyghur students in Britain report that the Chinese embassy has begun to threaten them and their families, putting them under surveillance.