Besides his explosive comments that some Canadian politicians could be under foreign influence, CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) Director Richard Fadden also exposed the danger posed by the quiet expansion of Confucius Institutes in Canadian post-secondary schools.Last night in Taipei I met a few academics from Europe who had some very scary stories to tell. I was informed that China has already begun quietly refusing visas to students of professors who are pro-Taiwan or anti-China. How is it collecting the intelligence necessary to fine-tune these refusals? On-campus Confucius Institutes. The Institutes, they said, also attempt to suppress criticism of China and to shape what is taught on campus through the usual tactics of bribery and intimidation. At at least one EU university, the professors banded together and tossed the Confucius Institute of campus because of its campaign of intimidation.
While the Chinese regime promotes the institutes as a place to learn Chinese language and culture, they are commonly seen as part of Beijing’s efforts to expand its soft power and non-military influence. Critics of the institutes allege they are propaganda entities that can interfere with the academic independence of the universities they are often attached to.
Speaking to an audience of police, military and intelligence personnel at the Royal Canadian Military Institute in March, Fadden said the institutes are controlled by Chinese embassies and consulates. He lumped them together with some of Bejing’s other efforts to steer Canadian China policy.
Evidence was on display during Hu's visit to Canada in June when a crowd of hundreds gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to both welcome Hu and shout down protesters concerned with human-rights abuses in China. In the crowd were a group wearing T-shirts with labels identifying them as being from Montreal's Confucius Institute, which is hosted at Dawson College.
The recording of a speech at the Chinese embassy obtained by The Epoch Times showed the rally was funded and organized by the embassy with the intent of waging "war" with protesters. Several groups have now called for the expulsion of Mr. Liu Shaohua, the embassy official caught on tape.
Epoch Times continues:
In 2006, one faculty member at Stockholm University’s institute tried to stop the school’s Center for Asia Pacific from having Erping Zhang as a visiting scholar because of his volunteer work for the U.S.-based Falun Dafa Information Center. An email from that professor was sent to the university’s faculty alleging Zhang was not a scholar, despite having five degrees including a Master's in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.Confucius Institutes have two, and only two, functions: one is propaganda, and the other is intelligence on the academic community. Watch out for the one in your neighborhood; its presence is entirely inimical to the development of robust critical views of China, academic freedom, and democratic politics.
In Israel, a judge ruled Tel Aviv University had bowed to the Chinese regime by shutting down an art exhibition about the oppression of Falun Gong in China put on bystudents because the school feared losing perks provided by the Chinese regime, including a Confucius Institute.
As the University of Sydney closed a deal to have its own Confucius Institute in 2007, Jocelyn Chey, a former diplomat and visiting professor there told the Australian that having the institute on campus was going to make it difficult for academics to maintain their freedom and independence.
The University of Pennsylvania never applied to host an institute over concerns the regime would try to meddle with its curriculum while the University of British Columbia declined an offer to host one.
ADDED: Nathan notes in the comments that the Confucius Institutes are supervised by the PRC's education ministry. He also passed me this link to this article on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee report which says basically that US public diplomacy is woefully underfunded.
ADDED: I forgot to add that Confucius Institutes in certain European countries are also trying to put their officials on the boards of local Asia societies in order to control their content and block Taiwan and Tibet-related programs, even apolitical business and investment activities.
UPDATED: This link goes to a Chron of Higher Ed article on the Confucius Institutes. And here's a link to a relatively positive article.
UPDATED: Glen Anthony May has excellent piece in Asia Sentinel on the Confucius Institutes.
They come with visible strings attached. Some of the strings can be seen in the memoranda of understanding that US universities conclude with Hanban. Among other things, they must state their support for the "one China policy" – the decades-old US policy of not recognizing the legitimacy of the Republic of China on Taiwan._______________________
I, for one, consider that policy profoundly misguided, and I'm sure that I'm not the only American who feels that way. At universities, we normally have an opportunity to debate issues like that, allowing professors like me and students to take issue publicly with our government's policy. Hanban, for obvious reasons, wants no such discussion to occur.
What that particular attached string means in practice is that Confucius Institutes will hardly ever provide funding for events relating to Taiwan. It also means that other academic units at Hanban-affiliated universities will not likely fund them either. Once the perks from Hanban begin to arrive, professors at universities with CIs become extremely reluctant to do anything to upset their generous benefactors.
But it's not just Taiwan that receives special treatment. Two other "T" words are anathema to Beijing, and hence to Hanban: Tibet and Tiananmen. Don't expect any universities with CIs to arrange a visit of the Dalai Lama anytime soon or to schedule a symposium on the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. In Canada last year, during riots in Tibet, the head of a Confucius Institute at the University of Waterloo succeeded in reversing the direction of coverage and getting a major Canadian television station to apologize for its previous pro-rebel coverage.
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