Cambridge University, BBC Took Cash From Chinese Communist Party Backed Tech Giant: Reports

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Cambridge University and the BBC have become the latest British establishment institutions to have been accused of working in step with the dictatorship in Beijing, after signing deals with a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) tied tech giant.

The University of Cambridge reportedly received a “generous gift” from Tencent Holdings, one of the largest technology firms in China, to fund engineering research.

The university received money from Tencent to fund a quantum computing research project under Cambridge’s Dowling postdoctoral research fellowship, The Times reported on Wednesday.

Tencent is one of the world’s most valuable companies, serving as the largest vendor of video games in the world. The Chinese tech giant also owns one of the country’s largest social media platforms, WeChat, through which the company enforces the strict censorship regime of the communist government.

In December, a former senior CIA official told Foreign Policy magazine that the American intelligence agency had concluded with a “high-confidence reporting” that Tencent was initially funded by the CCP’s Ministry of State Security, the top civilian security agency in China.

The CIA official said that Tencent received “seed investment” from the communist spy agency “when they were trying to build out the Great Firewall and the monitoring technology”.

In 2019, Cambridge announced that the “technology giant Tencent has made a generous gift to fund a new five-year postdoctoral research fellowship in the department of engineering”. The funding was said to enable researchers “to bring their ideas from the lab to reality… in areas from smart city infrastructure to radical new medical treatments enabled with bioengineering for drug delivery”.

Cambridge Univerity’s Jesus College is also linked with the Chinese tech firm, having hosted three times the ‘Yidan Prize Conference: Europe’, which is put on by Tencent’s co-founder Chen Yidan.

Cambridge University claimed that they have a “robust” system in place for reviewing donations, saying: “Academic freedom is a fundamental principle, and no donor directs research.”

Breitbart London had previously reported on Jesus College, when it was revealed to have received £155,000 from Communist Party linked Huawei for a research collaboration and £200,000 from China’s State Council for the establishment of a “UK-China Global Issues Dialogue Centre”.

Britain’s publicly-funded broadcaster, the BBC, has also been swept up in the flurry of reports on Chinese influence.

On Wednesday, The Telegraph reported that Tencent had signed a series of deals with the BBC to co-produce some of the broadcaster’s top programmes, including Sir David Attenborough’s climate change alarmist Blue Planet II wildlife series.

The report claimed that in 2018, the BBC inked a three-year production deal with Tencent to make “content-rich documentaries”.

Chinese expert at The Henry Jackson Society think tank, Sam Armstrong, said: “This is an appalling misjudgment by the BBC. Tencent is intricately connected to the Chinese State.”

Armstrong went on to say that the move is not only a “PR disaster for the BBC”, but that it also puts into question the “moral judgement” of Director-General of the BBC Tim Davie for “so thoroughly” embracing the CCP-tied firm.

A BBC Studios spokesman said: “As a major exporter of British content to the world, and consistent with Sino-British trade policy and initiatives, BBC Studios has had relationships in place with Chinese media companies for many years to bring high-quality British television programmes to audiences in China.”

The revelations come after Oxford University was reported on Monday to have renamed its 120-year-old Wykeham professorship after Tencent in exchange for £700,000 from the Chinese tech firm.

Professor of politics and international relations at the University of Kent Matthew Goodwin said that a review should be carried out on the growing influence of the CCP on British universities.

“Most members of the public would question why we’re letting universities take that amount of money to sponsor internal chairs,” he said, adding that the move from Oxford would “give [Tencent] serious credibility”.

Oxford University defended the move, saying: “Tencent has been approved as an appropriate donor by our independent committee… Our donors have no say in setting research and teaching programmes.”

British universities have come under increasing scrutiny for ties to the Chinese state. On Monday, Breitbart London reported that MI6 is currently investigating “some of the most prestigious universities in the country” for working with Chinese weapons producers.

The probe has reportedly expanded to British academics themselves, with The Times reporting that some 200 academics are under investigation for transferring technology, including cyberweapons, missile designs, and aircraft technology, to the Chinese state.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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