Canadian teachers oppose Beijing-dictated Confucius institutes on campuses

Tibetan Review

(, Dec27, 2013) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has on Dec 17 called on universities and colleges in Canada to sever their ties with institutes subsidized and supervised by the authoritarian government of China because they are subjected to Chinese government interference on academic freedom. The group said that at a meeting of its council held earlier in the month, a resolution was passed calling on universities and colleges in Canada which currently hosted Confucius Institutes on their campuses to cease doing so, and those contemplating such arrangements to pursue them no further.

“Confucius Institutes are essentially political arms of the Chinese government,” CAUT executive director James Turk was quoted as saying. “They restrict the free discussion of topics Chinese authorities deem controversial and should have no place on our campuses.” He has added that the “Institutes are owned and operated by an authoritarian government and beholden to its politics.”

China claims that its Confucius Institutes only provide instruction in Chinese language and culture. But unlike the Goethe Institut, the British Council and the Alliance Française, Confucius Institutes are most often physically situated on campuses and provide accredited courses while playing a political role of implementing Chinese government policies in university campuses.

Turk has noted that the University of Manitoba had rejected hosting a Confucius Institute out of concerns over political censorship, while the McMaster University had ended its agreement with the Confucius Institute earlier in the year following a human rights complaint by an instructor who alleged discriminatory hiring practices against members of Falun Gong.

The CAUT statement said that Canadian universities and colleges that currently hosted Confucius Institutes included: British Columbia Institute of Technology, Brock University, Carleton University, Dawson College, University of Regina, University of Saskatchewan, Seneca College, University of Sherbrooke, St. Mary’s University, and the University of Waterloo
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According to Nov 1, Hanban, a government-affiliated group under the Chinese education ministry with members drawn from 12 ministries and commissions, had spent at least $500 million since 2004 to establish 350 Confucius Institutes worldwide and about 75 in the US, four times the number in any other country. The report said that the Association for Asian Studies, a leading group of China scholars with 8,000 members worldwide, had decided in Mar 2013 it wouldn’t seek or accept Hanban support, due to the lack of a firewall separating China’s government from funding decisions.

“By peddling a product we want, namely Chinese language study, the Confucius Institutes bring the Chinese government into the American academy in powerful ways,” it quoted Jonathan Lipman, a professor of Chinese history at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, as saying.

“The general pattern is very clear,” Lipman has said. “They can say, ‘We’ll give you this money, you’ll have a Chinese program, and nobody will talk about Tibet.’ In this economy, turning them down has real costs.”

Resisting Chinese fund and interference, however, remains problematic. China’s banning of 13 American professors who wrote a 2004 book about Xinjiang province, home to a Muslim group seeking self-rule, met little pushback from US universities with growing financial ties to China, Bloomberg News reported Aug. 11.

Original article