Some of the things I read in this article should make universities think twice before signing an agreement with Chinese universities. Here’s the story that isn’t getting told:

Many reputable and informed scholars of China have observed that the Confucius Institutes are marked by the same “no-go zones” that Beijing enforces on China’s public sphere. In an interview reported in The New York Times, June Teufel Dreyer, who teaches Chinese government and foreign policy at Miami University, said: “You’re told not to discuss the Dalai Lama—or to invite the Dalai Lama to campus. Tibet, Taiwan, China’s military buildup, factional fights inside the Chinese leadership—these are all off limits.”

The Confucius Institutes at North Carolina State University and the University of Sydney actively attempted to prevent the Dalai Lama from speaking. At Sydney, he had to speak off-campus, and the CI sponsored a lecture by a Chinese academic who had previously claimed that Tibet was always part of China, notwithstanding that it was mired in feudal darkness and serfdom until the Chinese democratic reforms of 1959. The Confucius Institute at Waterloo University mobilized its students to defend the Chinese repression of a Tibetan uprising, and McMaster University and Tel Aviv University ran into difficulties with the legal authorities because of the anti–Falun Gong activities of their Confucius Institutes.

Other taboo subjects include the Tiananmen massacre, blacklisted authors, human rights, the jailing of dissidents, the democracy movement, currency manipulation, environmental pollution and the Uighur autonomy movement in Xinjiang. Quite recently, Chinese government leaders explicitly banned the discussion of seven subjects in Chinese university classrooms, including universal values, freedom of the press and the historical mistakes of the Chinese Communist Party; this was part of a directive to local officials to “understand the dangers posed by views and theories advocated by the West.” It stands to reason that these subjects will also not be matters of free inquiry in CIs.

Academic censorship isn’t acceptable, whether it’s being promoted by a university through speech codes or whether it’s happening as a result of Chinese government interference. Censorship should be fought by these universities because their mission is to inform and educate. These universities’ mission isn’t to coddle Communist dictatorships.

More than one CI director has stated that his institute is free to discuss anything it wants to; the only problem seems to be with the things they don’t want to discuss. “We don’t know anything about the contract that [Hanban officials] force their teachers to sign,” said Glenn Cartwright, principal of Waterloo’s Renison University College, which houses the institute. “I’m sure they have some conditions, but whether we can dictate what those conditions can be is another story.” Human rights are not discussed in the Confucius Institute of the British Columbia Institute of Technology because that isn’t part of its mandate. According to director Jim Reichert, “our function is really focused on cultural awareness, business development, those sorts of pragmatic things.”

Saying that CI’s are “focused on…pragmatic things” is a way of saying “I’ve caved to the Chinese government’s political pressure.” If we want to teach the Chinese people something, we should teach them about the pillars of our republic.

It’s time to expose the Chinese government’s political interference. Most importantly, it’s time to expose the Chinese government’s attempt to stifle academic freedom in America.

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