Scottish universities have been condemned for accepting millions of dollars in funding for Confucius Institutes from the “corrupt and totalitarian” Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
A recent Freedom of Information request from The Spectator revealed that the universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde had accepted £11million in funding from Hanban.
Hanban is an organization linked to the Chinese Ministry of Education that oversees and funds Confucius Institutes. Its council is made up of members from various CCP ministries.
The University of Edinburgh accepted £6 million in funding while Strathclyde accepted £5.6 million between 2006 and 2021 in a move Free Tibet condemned.
Free Tibet asserts that China is only interested in fueling propaganda and suppressing the truth.
Viewer FAITH revealed that £26million has been accepted by universities across the UK with Hanban, Edinburgh and Strathclyde accepting the most.
Hanban has since changed its name to Chinese International Education Foundation.
The Confucius Institutes have been heavily criticized in the press since the project was launched in 2004 for creating undue CCP influence in the universities where they are established.
The Confucius Institute in Edinburgh was vandalized last year with graffiti reading “CCPHQ” appearing on its sign.
Li Changchun, a former Chinese Communist Party propaganda chief, has been widely quoted as saying that the Confucius Institutes are “an important part of Chinese overseas propaganda”.
While a report by the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission published in 2019 stated: “The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission believes that the issue of the presence of Confucius Institutes in UK universities requires a immediate and urgent attention.
“We therefore call on Her Majesty’s Government to review this report and address the concerns expressed.”
A 2019 article in the Guardian said: “Universities are failing to respond adequately to the growing risk of China and other ‘autocracies’ influencing academic freedom in the UK, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee said.
While a BBC article from the same year stated: “In recent weeks a host of universities around the world have closed programs run by the institute.
“In Australia, an investigation is even underway to find out whether the agreements between the universities and the institute breached anti-foreign interference laws.”
The University of Leeds and Aberdeen have both stopped accepting Hanban and Department of Education funding for their institutes following criticism.
Instead, they are now finding funding from their respective partner universities in China.
But despite widespread criticism, the universities of Strathclyde and Edinburgh continued to accept funding until 2020.
John Jones, head of campaigns and research at Free Tibet, said: “For decades, the Chinese government has worked to eradicate Tibetan culture from its schools and replace it with propaganda.
“He even resorted to arresting teachers and destroying schools to achieve his ends.
“Xi Jinping and his government have no interest in furthering the education of students in Scotland, they just want to feed them propaganda and suppress the truth about their brutal oppression.
“There is an obvious benefit for students learning Chinese language and Chinese culture, but no university that believes in academic freedom can even consider accepting money from such a corrupt and totalitarian source.”
A spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh said: “The Confucius Institute of Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh engage in an open and critical debate about China alongside efforts to promote cultural awareness, knowledge exchange and dialogue.
“The University is committed to academic freedom and academic debate, and this is unaffected by its relationship with the Confucius Institute.
“All university partnerships undergo rigorous due diligence and are continually reviewed.
“The Institute has contributed to important discussions on issues relating to contemporary China.”
While the University of Strathclyde commented: “Between 2012 and 2020, ISSC received £4.4 million in funding from Hanban, the governing body of the Confucius Institutes of China, which are partnerships established to promote teaching Chinese language and culture.
“The funding was used for Confucius Classroom Central Schools in Scotland and for local authorities to recruit GTCS-registered Mandarin teachers.
“In addition, Hanban’s £1.2 million funding in Strathclyde covered part of the cost of the Confucius Institute’s new offices for schools in Scotland, after it was granted Institute status. Confucius model in 2017.”
The Chinese government has been contacted for comment through its embassy in London, but has yet to respond.