The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is conducting a propaganda war in university halls across the United Kingdom, using threats and intimidation to implement a pro-Beijing narrative on campus.
The Foreign Affairs Committee has published a report on the influence that the Confucius Institute exerts on professors and students at universities in the United Kingdpm.
The Confucius Institute, which purports to teach Chinese language and culture, is a branch of the Chinese Ministry of Education which reports directly to the Communist Party’s central propaganda department.
The United Kingdom has 29 Confucius Institutes, the second-highest number in any country — behind the United States — with an additional 148 “Confucius Classrooms” across the country.
London School of Economics (LSE) professor Christopher Hughes told the Foreign Affairs Committee that he had witnessed “Chinese Confucius Institute officials confiscating papers which mention Taiwan at an academic conference”.
Another example occurred at the University of Nottingham, in which professors were pressured to cancel campus events that related to Taiwan and Tibet following complaints from Chinese officials.
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Professor Hughes, writing in 2014, explained that the Confucius Institutes not only serve as a means of stifling discussion about sensitive topics for the Beijing regime, such as the so-called ‘Three T’s’ — Taiwan, Tibet, Tiananmen — but also serves as an apparatus to watch over Chinese students who are studying abroad.
One student told Professor Hughes: “The Confucius Institute, to me, functions like the closed circulation television and has the potential to scare away my critical thinking by constantly reminding me: we are watching you and behave yourself.”
Another student, Ayeshagul Nur Ibrahim, a Uyghur Muslim, told the Foreign Affairs Committee that the Chinese Communist Party has been harassing her and her family since she became politically active in the United Kingdom.
The Confucius Institute has recently come under increased criticism in the West. Last month, The Telegraph reported that Xinning Song, the head of the Confucius Institute at the Free University of Brussels, was banned from Belgium after security services accused him of being a spy for Beijing. He was also barred from the European Union’s passport-free Schengen zone for eight years.
In the United States, Republican Senator Josh Hawley has called for a federal investigation into China’s influence on American education. Hawley said: “These Confucius Institutes are, in short, a tool for China to spread influence and exercise soft power in its rivalry with the United States.”
The claim by Senator Hawley is backed up by former Chinese president Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping’s predecessor, who said that the purpose of the institutes is “to cultivate and prepare a group (or army) of people to make sure the CCP will be in power in the future… and increase our CCP influence around the world.”
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