The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, which Fiona chairs, has published a report titled ‘China’s Confucius Institutes’.
Confucius Institutes are promoted as educational centres teaching Chinese language and culture – a Chinese equivalent of the British Council, American Centres, Goethe Institutes or the Alliance Francaise. In Britain, there are at least 29 Confucius Institutes, the second largest number in the world after the United States, attached to major universities such as Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Cardiff and University College London. There are also 148 Confucius 'classrooms' in schools around the United Kingdom.
The report states that while Confucius Institutes are said to be similar to the British Council or other cultural and education centres, they differ in two distinctive ways.
First, they are embedded in universities around the world. Second, many experts allege that freedom of expression and academic freedom is limited, even suppressed, in Confucius Institutes – with growing concern that they are a form of soft power and propaganda aimed at promoting the Chinese Communist Party.
“There are very serious questions about the influence Confucius Institutes may wield at British universities and schools. While we welcome and encourage language teaching and cultural exchange, we believe a review is necessary to assess whether Confucius Institutes represent a threat to academic freedom, freedom of expression, other basic rights and indeed national security.
We also believe it is right to have an assessment to ensure that the curriculum taught in Confucius Institutes is balanced, independent, holistic and comprehensive, and measures to require transparency and accountability in any future agreements between British institutions and Confucius Institutes.”
The report can be accessed on the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission website: http://conservativehumanrights.com/news/2019/CPHRC_Confucius_Institutes_report_FEBRUARY_2019.pdf
This is not the only organisation expressing concerns about Chinese influence – see also the report by Royal United Services Institute (RUSI): https://rusi.org/sites/default/files/20190220_chinese_interference_parton_web.pdf