In a major development on Wednesday (March 17), Massachusetts-based Tufts University in the United States decided to shut down the contentious Confucius Institute from its campus.
As per reports, Tufts University has announced that it will not renew its contract with the Institute after it expires in September this year. The US university had earlier extended its contract in 2019 for a period of 2 years. The Confucius Institute, funded directly by the Communist regime in China (CCP), was started in Tufts in 2015. It was meant to ‘facilitate’ cultural exchange between China and the United States by offering a not-for-credit language programme in Mandarin.
Over the years, the ‘cultural centre’ has been accused of promoting censorship and undermining human rights. There are more than 50 centres of Confucius Institute across the United States. Besides the Chinese government, it receives funds from the host university as well. The staff members include visiting professors from China, who come to the US on a visa. At its peak, the Confucius Institute had over 70 centres in the country. But, as per reports, at least 10 have been shut down so far.
Protest at Tufts University against Confucius Institute
The Tibetan Association of Boston along with Students for Free Tibet in Boston staged 13-week long protests at the Tufts University. The demonstration was joined by a state representative, city councilors in Somerville and a School Committee member. The protest involved Uyghurs, Hong Kongers, Taiwanese, Tibetans and Uyghurs. Activist Tenzin Yangzom said, “We refused to accept that the Chinese government — the very regime that has driven us from homelands and is waging an unrelenting campaign of intimidation, persecution, and repression against our peoples — had a home at Tufts, and a presence in our own backyard.”
Tufts University committed to promoting ‘Chinese culture’ and language
US State Representative Seth Moulton opined, “Tufts University’s overdue decision to disband its Confucius Institute is the right one, and I hope it represents a sign that academia is finally waking up to the threat the Chinese Communist Party poses to colleges and our country.” In 2019, a probe by the US Senate had found that the Chinese government paid $158 million during a span of 13 years to establish over 100 centres of the Confucius Institute.
The administrators at Tufts university informed that they are focussed on improving their relationship with Beijing Normal University (BNU). It thanked the Confucius Institute for promoting Mandarin and ‘culture learning’ at the University and strengthening its ties with BNU. Interestingly, Tufts University also has a study abroad programme named ‘Tufts in Beijing’. “We remain committed to international engagement with our partners and are enthused by increased student interest in Chinese language and culture,” the University said.
Trump administration cautioned about threats by CCP
In September last year, the State Department had written to the governing boards of US universities cautioning them about the threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party. US State Secretary Mike Pompeo had said that he was hopeful that dozens of Chinese-government funded Confucius Institute cultural centres on US campuses will be shut down by year-end. The institutes are accused of working to recruit “spies and collaborators”.
The growing influence of Confucius Institute in British schools
The Confucius Institutes now exist in 29 British universities and 150 schools. While they claim to promote Chinese culture and language, the Mail reported that they curb free speech and peddle CCP propaganda. The Confucius International Education Group bought the Riddlesworth Hall Preparatory School, a school where Princess Diana studied, in 2015.