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MPs attempt to ban Chinese cultural organisation accused of being a front for SPYING from Britain over fears it is censoring criticism of the Communist Beijing regime
- China hawks have introduced an amendment to the Higher Education Bill
- Education and cultural programme has 29 branches at UK universities
- In August 2020, US labelled it ‘an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda’
MPs are pressuring the Government to ban a Chinese cultural organisation from Britain over claims it is a front for spying and censorship of Beijing’s critics.
China hawks including Tory Alicia Kearns have introduced an amendment to the Higher Education Bill due to be debated next week, targeting the Confucius Institute.
The institute is a worldwide education and cultural programme which has branches at UK universities including Edinburgh, Manchester and UCL.
But Sweden ended its work in the Scandinavian country in May 2020 . Months later, in August 2020, then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo labelled the US operation ‘an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign’.
The UK amendment would give the Government powers to order full disclosure of funding and activities of branches and ban them if they don’t comply.
Ms Kearns said: ‘We need to dramatically invest in our Mandarin/Cantonese capability and study of the history and culture of China.
‘But for students wanting to learn to have no choice but to learn through a CI (Confucius Institute) – imposing CCP (Chinese Community Party) tunnel vision – is wrong. Choice, and freedom of speech.’
The Confucius Institute is a worldwide education and cultural programme which has branches at several UK universities including Edinburgh, Manchester and UCL.
China hawks including Tory Alicia Kearns have introduced an amendment to the Higher Education Bill next week giving ministers the power to ban it
The bill also has cross-party support, with backers including Lib Dem Alistair Carmichael, meaning it could attract more support if it moved to a vote next week.
It is the latest criticism of CI by MPs over its links to the Chinese Government.
In a debate on the National Security Bill on Monday, Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely said: ‘Anything that doesn’t capture the considerable amount of information about Confucius Institutes, about the universities, about what the law firms and the lobbyists and the former civil servants are doing in relation to oligarchs, in relation to Huawei, in relation to Chinese interests and in relation to Russian interests will not be of service to this country.’
The Bill, which seeks to overhaul espionage laws and bolster security powers, cleared its first Commons hurdle as MPs gave it an unopposed second reading.
US Conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation estimates that since being set up in 2004 it has enrolled more than nine million students at 525 institutes in 146 countries and regions.
It accused them of ‘molding attitudes about China, painting an idyllic portrait in which Mao Zedong is a revolutionary hero and the Tiananmen Square massacre never happened’.
The institutes in the US were largely staffed and funded by an agency of the Chinese government’s Ministry of Education—the Office of Chinese Languages Council International, better known as the Hanban.
It operated more than 100 in the US, but since Mr Pompeo’s actions in 202 that has been reduced to just four.
Announcing his decision at the time, the former Trump administration figure said: ‘Confucius Institutes are funded by the PRC and part of the Chinese Communist Party’s global influence and propaganda apparatus.
‘The goal of these actions is simple: to ensure that American educators and school administrators can make informed choices about whether these CCP-backed programs should be allowed to continue, and if so, in what fashion.
‘Universities around the country and around the world are examining the Confucius Institutes’ curriculum and the scope of Beijing’s influence in their education systems.
‘The United States wants to ensure that students on U.S. campuses have access to Chinese language and cultural offerings free from the manipulation of the Chinese Communist Party and its proxies.’