University of Hawaii becomes latest US academic institution to sever ties with Confucius Institute

DHARAMSALA, 31 July: In yet another setback for China’s controversial Confucius Institute(CI), the University of Hawaii (UH) has severed its ties with the institute amidst greater scrutiny over Confucius Institutes across the world.

The development came following new federal restrictions and amid FBI warnings that universities are not doing enough to stem intellectual property theft and espionage, according to various news reports.

As the UH shut down their Confucius Institute effective 31 May, over 15 academic institutions in the US have severed ties with the Confucius Institute.

“We thank the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China for 13 years of support of our K-16 and community outreach efforts,” UH said in a press release.

The University further stated that they closed the institute “in order to maintain federally funded research and educational opportunities for its faculty and students,” the university said in a news release.

The US’ National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 prohibits the use of defense funding for language programs at colleges or universities that also host Confucius Institutes, except in cases where Defense Department waivers are granted.

The FBI has also described the CI as a source of concern while declaring China as the most severe counterintelligence threat to the US according to a report on American Military News.

“I would say that there is no country that poses a more severe counterintelligence threat to this country right now than China,” FBI Director Christopher Wray was quoted as saying in the report at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday.

CI which are funded by Beijing and operated by the Office of Chinese Languages Council International, also known as Hanban, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China has come under increasing international scrutiny of late. A central part of China’s soft power plan, it aims to improve the global view of China’s authoritarian system.

Rights groups and activists say it threatens academic freedom and free speech. Confucius Institutes aim to censor and silence discussions on important political and human rights issues like Tibet, East Turkestan, Taiwan, Falun Gong and Tiananmen Square.


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