ChinaJuly 19 2022, 17:24 pm

Finland Shuts Down Confucius Institute amid Censorship, Espionage Accusations

Euro­pean media report­ed last month that a Fin­ish uni­ver­si­ty had closed its affil­i­at­ed Con­fu­cius Insti­tute fol­low­ing con­cerns relat­ed to Chi­nese soft pow­er, espi­onage, and an attempt to block dis­cus­sions on Tibet. Accord­ing to a report by Euractiv:

June 21, 2022 A coop­er­a­tion con­tract between Helsin­ki Uni­ver­si­ty and the Con­fu­cius Insti­tute will be ter­mi­nat­ed fol­low­ing accu­sa­tions of spread­ing Chi­nese soft pow­er, con­duct­ing espi­onage, and an attempt to block dis­cus­sions on Tibet.  Helsin­ki Uni­ver­si­ty has host­ed a Con­fu­cius Insti­tute focused on teach­ing the Chi­nese lan­guage and cul­ture since 2007. The coop­er­a­tion has been based on a part­ner­ship with the Ren­min Uni­ver­si­ty of Chi­na, which sent teach­ers to Helsin­ki each year. The Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes were launched in 2004, and there are now 525 insti­tutes in 146 coun­tries.  Over the years, they have been accused of being Tro­jan hors­es spread­ing Chi­nese soft pow­er and even con­duct­ing espi­onage. Chi­nese teach­ers, paid by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, are said to avoid top­ics such as the Tianan­men Square Mas­sacre and the Cul­tur­al Rev­o­lu­tion. Two years ago, Helsinki’s Con­fu­cius Insti­tute attempt­ed to block dis­cus­sions on Tibet.

Read the rest here.

The Eurac­tiv report notes that Bel­gium closed its Con­fu­cius Insti­tute in 2019, Swe­den and Den­mark in 2020, and Nor­way in 2021.

Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes are pub­lic edu­ca­tion­al part­ner­ships between col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in Chi­na and col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in oth­er coun­tries. In 2019, Inside High­er Ed described Con­fu­cian Insti­tutes as follows:

The Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes have long been con­tro­ver­sial. The cen­ters vary some­what across dif­fer­ent cam­pus­es, but they typ­i­cal­ly offer some com­bi­na­tion of Man­darin lan­guage class­es, cul­tur­al pro­gram­ming and out­reach to K‑12 schools and the com­mu­ni­ty more broad­ly. They are staffed in part with vis­it­ing teach­ers from Chi­na and fund­ed by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, with match­ing resources pro­vid­ed by the host insti­tu­tion. The num­ber of U.S. uni­ver­si­ties host­ing the insti­tutes increased rapid­ly after the first was estab­lished at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land Col­lege Park in 2004, grow­ing to more than 90 at the peak.

Past Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report cov­er­age on China’s Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes (CI) has included:

  • In May, we report­ed on a study con­clud­ing that while the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment does not seem to pro­vide any overt direc­tion or con­trol of CI teach­ers, they still exhib­it a high degree of polit­i­cal com­pli­ance while work­ing abroad.
  • In Novem­ber 2021, we report­ed on the pub­li­ca­tion of a French Sen­ate report on Chi­nese influ­ence in France, which ded­i­cat­ed a sec­tion to China’s use of its Con­fu­cius Institutes.
  • In Octo­ber 2021, we report­ed that fol­low­ing pres­sure from Chi­na, two Ger­man Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes can­celed a book pre­sen­ta­tion of a crit­i­cal biog­ra­phy of Chi­nese pres­i­dent Xi Jinping.


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