8 June 2018
The decision of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission to conduct an inquiry into China’s Confucius Institutes and their influence around the world, represents a unique opportunity to assess the threats these pose to our academic freedoms in the UK.
While on the surface, Confucius Institutes are educational and cultural centres teaching Chinese language and promoting Chinese culture, there have been numerous reports that these Institutes are being used to silence discussions about ‘sensitive topics’ such as Tibet, Taiwan, Falun Gong and the Tiananmen Massacre of 1989.
As these Institutes are directly funded and directed by the Chinese government, they maintain overall control over the teaching materials used in classes and the teachers employed.
In a submission made to the injury today, Tibet Society calls on the UK authorities to seize this opportunity to highlight the ways in which these institutes are limiting discussions on Tibet in order to prevent censorship and protect freedom of expression.
Tibet Society is calling for the UK government to require that, where Confucius Institutes do provide teaching in Chinese history or culture, they adopt a more holistic and comprehensive curriculum that allows for discussion on a diversity of topics, including Tibet, Taiwan and Tiananmen Square.
We are also urging the UK authorities to investigate whether these Confucius institutes are being used to monitor, harass and intimidate Chinese students and teachers.
At present, there are at least 29 Confucius Institutes attached to major universities in the UK such as Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Cardiff and University College London. This is the second largest number in the world after the United States. There are also 127 Confucius ‘classrooms’ in schools throughout the UK.