A peak body of educators in Canada has urged that universities and colleges in the country sever their association with Confucius Institutes, ostensibly centers of Chinese language learning set up by the Chinese Communist Party.
The Canadian Association of University Teachers argued in a recent statement that the fact that the institutes are funded and controlled by an authoritarian communist regime makes them an unsuitable educational partner.
Delegates to a meeting of the association passed a resolution in December recommending the action against the Chinese soft propaganda organization, and advised those considering hosting Confucius Institutes to go no further, according to the organization’s bulletin.
“In agreeing to host Confucius Institutes, Canadian universities and colleges are compromising their own integrity by allowing the Chinese Language Culture International to have a voice in a number of academic matters, such as curriculum, texts, and topics of class discussion,” Executive Director James Turk explained. “Such interference is a fundamental violation of academic freedom.”
The institutes, which are affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education and include top Communist Party members as overseers, provide instruction in Chinese language and culture, but are criticized as tools for Communist Party propaganda and soft power abroad. Critics point out that they export discriminatory practices against groups persecuted in China.
The University of Manitoba decided not to host a Confucius Institute, fearing political censorship, and earlier this year, McMaster University shut down its Confucius Institute because its discriminatory employment practices would not permit hiring members of Falun Gong, Turk said. The case of Sonia Zhao, who was discriminated against, became national news in Canada.
“I am deeply inspired by this action by the association of university teachers,” Norbu Tsering, North American MP of the Tibetan government in exile, said in a statement to Tibet Post. “We have to look for and challenge all forms of oppression, both outside and ones that threaten to make their way into Canada.”
Kayum Masimov, president of the Uyghur Canadian Society told Tibet Post, “Canadian institutions should not be complicit in cooperating with the overseas branch of the communist regime. Any association with the Confucius Institute is a stain on academic reputation and international standing of Canada.”
“Simply put, Confucius Institutes are owned and operated by an authoritarian government and beholden to its politics,” Turk said of the association.