Republican Bill Lee, the Governor of Tennessee, recently introduced legislation to prohibit public universities and colleges in his state from partnering with communist China’s state-backed Confucius Institutes.
In a tweet, the governor called for greater transparency on Tennessee college campuses.
The legislation, ‘Transparency in Foreign Investment Act,’ requires institutions to disclose all gifts and contracts they have with foreign sources. They must also decline gifts and contracts from sources classified as national security threats. Public institutions will be required to submit a disclosure report to the Comptroller of the Treasury for public review. Lee justified the need for the legislation stating that President Biden had withdrawn a Trump-era rule in February that mandated schools and universities to reveal their connections with Confucius Institutes.
“Colleges and universities are a place for the robust debate of ideas – not a place for foreign governments to operate in the shadows… After the federal government rolled back critical reporting requirements around Confucius Institutes, my administration is taking action to provide Tennessee taxpayers greater transparency in all foreign investment on our campuses. I thank university leadership for working with us to preserve the integrity of our state and national security,” Lee said in a statement.
Tennessee is one of the leading states in the United States that is cracking down on Confucius Institutes. Many of the state’s public universities are currently in the process of shutting down the institutes on their campuses. According to reported numbers, these universities have received $2.5 million from Confucius Institutes and its affiliates.
The institute’s branches have come down from an all-time high of 103 to just 51 at present. At some universities, the institutes have adopted new names to avoid scrutiny. However, Lee’s bill will cover such rebranded versions of Confucius Institutes.
Lee’s bill comes on the back of the ‘CONFUCIUS Act’ that the U.S. Senate passed on March 4. The legislation was passed with unanimous consent and will force universities to take full control of the Confucius Institutes on their campuses, including having the power to decide the course content and who to hire for the program. Universities that fail to follow these requirements will be cut off from federal funding.
Tufts University and the Confucius Institute
Tufts University has announced plans to end its contract with the Confucius Institute in Massachusetts. The contract is scheduled to expire on September 21, and the university has decided not to renew the agreement following a 13-week protest against the program.
On March 13, roughly 100 protestors had demonstrated close to the university president’s office, demanding the institute’s closure. Confucius Institute at Tufts University (CITU) was established at Tufts in 2015 and is the only Chinese-language program in the state that the Chinese Communist Party sponsors.
“I want to be clear; this is not a question of opportunities to study Chinese culture or language; we know that Tufts can find any other Chinese exchange program that isn’t directly sponsored by the authoritarian state… It’s about distorting academic discourse, silencing defenders of human rights, and repressing open dissent or discussion, and it’s a growing threat to the integrity of our academic institutions and threat to democracy everywhere,” Massachusetts State Representative Democrat Erika Uyterhoeven said at the rally.