UK Universities Under MI6 Investigation for Conspiring with Chinese Communist Party: Report

A Chinese People's Liberation Army soldier stands guard in preparation for the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 2, 2011. Authorities have ramped up security in Beijing ahead of China's upcoming parliamentary session, and amid ongoing calls for anti-government protests, …
LIU JIN/AFP via Getty Images

Over a dozen British universities are reportedly under investigation by security services over their relationships with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which may have violated national security and human rights laws.

A report from the Mail on Sunday claimed that “some of the most prestigious universities in the country” are under investigation for allegedly sharing British technology with China and therefore may be subject to “enforcement notices” imposed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The report said that the investigation is being carried out by MI6 and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office after Downing Street raised concerns that British academics are trying to cash in on the “new gold rush” of Chinese money in exchange for access to technological breakthroughs.

A government source told the newspaper: “Exporters of military goods and those engaged in transfer of military technology specified in the Export Control Order 2008 – including universities and academics – require a licence to export or transfer from the UK.”

“It is their responsibility to comply with the regulations,” they added.

An early release of a paper from the think tank Civitas, entitled Arming China? The Chinese Military Complex and Its Potential Exploitation of Scientific Research at UK Universities, claims that at least 20 universities in the United Kingdom have relationships with 29 Chinese universities with ties to the communist nation’s military, as well as nine military-tied companies, including some of China’s largest weapons producers.

The author of the study, Radomir Tylecote, said: “British taxpayers are paying for research that might unintentionally help China’s military soon attain a potentially dominant position.”

“This is strategically incoherent – especially when UK spending on research for its own military needs is so anaemic,” Mr Tylecote added.

The Civitas report claimed that Cambridge University has worked with the National University of Defense Technology, which is run by the Chinese military and has previously been sanctioned by the United States.

Cambridge defended their work with the Chinese military, saying: “All of the university’s research is subject to ethics governance and export control regulations.”

Imperial College London — which just last year signed a £5 million deal with Chinese tech giant Huawei — was also found to have conducted three research projects with funding from Chinese arms manufacturers.

A spokesman from Imperial College said: “Science is a global endeavour, and we are proud to work with our peers in academia and industry all over the world.”

Civitas also accused Manchester University of providing “China’s main nuclear missile conglomerate with a UK taxpayer-funded research centre”.

Manchester University cancelled an agreement with China Electronics Technology Corporation last week after it was informed that the Chinese military firm supplies tech to the concentration camp region of Xinjiang. The university denied prior knowledge of the firm’s complicity in the genocidal regime against the Uyghur Muslims there.

A former CCP official turned pro-democracy activist, Lianchao Han, said that the communist government in Beijing has long sought to exploit academic exchange programmes to pilfer technology from the West, in order to bolster its own military.

“China has invented all kinds of programs from inviting Western professors to lecture in the country through to hiring them for consulting work and funding joint research projects between universities. These schemes enable it to acquire dual-use technologies for both civilian and military gain and build a formidable army,” Lianchao Han said.

“Sadly, most Western universities and research institutions are shortsighted and still fail to see China’s strategic intent,” he added.

A leading Conservative MP has accused British universities of acting on either “naivety or greed” in partnering with the CCP.

The Tory chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Tom Tugendhat, called upon universities in the United Kingdom to decouple from the Chinese state.

Tugendhat said that the government should introduce new laws to limit the amount of research that can be done jointly with the Chinese, in order to safeguard British innovation from being stolen or being used to oppress the citizens of China.

“Has UK-based research been used in the repression of minorities and democracy activists in China? I fear it is all but certain our universities have, perhaps only in part, become enablers in the crushing of dissent,” he wrote in the Mail on Sunday.

The head of the China Research Group of Conservative MPs concluded by saying: “It seems Xi has learned from Lenin – the capitalist really will sell you the rope you use to hang him. Or in our case, design it.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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