College Democrats of America and the College Republican National Committee recently signed an open letter asking to shut down all Confucius Institutes that are operating on American campuses. Both groups pointed out that the Chinese communists were funding these institutes for their own agendas, making them a threat to educational freedom in America.
Shutting down the institutes
“The Chinese government’s flagrant attempts to coerce and control discourse at universities in the United States and around the world pose an existential threat to academic freedom as we know it… It is a civic and moral imperative that we protect that freedom… It has manipulated the world’s multilateral institutions in times of crisis, it has compromised our entertainment, news, and business communities, and it is committing crimes against humanity against Tibetans and Uyghurs,” the letter states, as reported by Fox News.
The letter warns that Confucius Institutes were pressuring Chinese students studying in the U.S. to do the bidding of the communist regime. Topics considered “sensitive” are censored by the institute. In addition to the two student political groups, the letter was signed by various other organizations, including human rights groups that represented Hongkongers, Taiwanese, Uyghurs, Tibetans, and others who have been persecuted by the Chinese regime.
Caleb Max, a senior at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, stated that one of his motivations to challenge a growing communist influence on American campuses was the discovery that some of the Chinese students at his university admitted to being extremely intimidated by the staff working in Confucius Institutes. One student said to Max that the Institute was “bothering him.” When asked whether they would sign the open letter, the students appeared reluctant and answered that they were afraid of what the communist regime would do to their families back in China should they do such a thing.
The Confucius Institutes are often well funded. After all, the Chinese government set aside close to US$100 million for these institutes operating inside America. A 2017 internal audit conducted by George Mason found that its Confucius Institute received US$386,000 in funding during the 2016-2017 period, spending US$344,000.
Earlier this year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that Chinese infiltration into the K-12 education system was a major problem. He pointed to the time when students from UC San Diego were paid by the Chinese consulate to protest against the Dalai Lama. The Chinese Communist Party is developing ties with local politicians and county schools through projects like the “Sister City Program.”
In Sweden, the government has closed all Confucius Institutes and classrooms. Even city partnerships have ended. According to one report, Sweden is the first country in Europe to have completely shut down Confucius Institutes. The first Confucius Institute in Sweden opened in Stockholm University in 2005. Ten years later in 2015, the university terminated the contract due to concerns about human rights. In December 2019, Lulea University of Technology announced the closure of the last Confucius Institute in Sweden.
The relationship between Sweden and China has been on a downward trend of late. As such, the latest move to limit Chinese influence in the country does not come as a surprise. The Swedish government was worried about Chinese businesses taking over local firms, repression in China, and the case of Swedish publisher Gui Minhai, who is currently being detained by the Chinese regime.