The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission has launched a new report on China’s Confucius Institutes, which calls for a review of all agreements between British institutions and the Confucius Institutes, concluding that these educational and cultural
The report notes that in 2007 the then head of propaganda for the Chinese Communist Party, Li Changchun, described Confucius Institutes as “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up,” and in 2010 Xu Lin, the director-general of the Hanban, an agency of the Ministry of Education which oversees Confucius Institutes, said that: “Confucius Institutes … are an important part of soft power. Because we want to expand our influences, we do not deny this. We agree.” China’s President at the time, Hu Jintao, endorsed Confucius Institutes as a way “to cultivate and prepare a group (or army) of people to make sure the Chinese Communist Party will be in power in the future in China, and … increase our influence around the world.”
The report also notes that an increasing number of universities around the world have terminated contracts and closed Confucius Institutes. 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.
Incidents of censorship or suppression of discussion are highlighted in the report, including the widespread ban on discussion in Confucius Institutes around the world of the three key ‘sensitive’ topics: the Tiananmen massacre, Tibet and Taiwan. Cases of employees of Confucius Institutes facing discrimination due to their beliefs are also detailed as a concern.
Last year the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission conducted an inquiry into Confucius Institutes, and received evidence from academics, former diplomats, human rights activists and researchers. The Commission also held a screening of a documentary, In the Name of Confucius, which provides an in-depth investigation into Confucius Institutes in Canada, followed by a panel discussion with four leading experts. This report is the outcome of the inquiry, and is part of the Commission’s ongoing work on China, following a major report on human rights in China and a report on forced organ harvesting in 2016.
The report makes ten recommendations, including calling for a suspension of further agreements between British universities and schools and Confucius Institutes until a review is completed. The report also recommends measures to ensure transparency from Confucius Institutes based in the United Kingdom.
Fiona Bruce MP, Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, said: “The evidence we received raises very serious questions about the influence which Confucius Institutes may have in British universities and schools. 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. We also believe it is right to have an assessment to ensure that the curriculum taught in Confucius Institutes is balanced, independent, holistic and comprehensive, and measures to require transparency and accountability in any future agreements between British institutions and Confucius Institutes.”