Forty-one Minnesota state legislators wrote to two universities in Minnesota asking them to close their local branches of the Confucius Institutes.
The controversial institutes are partially or fully funded by the Chinese communist regime. Their stated purpose is to teach Chinese language and culture, but some officials inside China and critics outside say the institutes are actually a propaganda initiative.
A letter from state Sen. Jim Abeler, co-signed by 40 other state legislators and addressed to President Ashish Vaidya of St. Cloud State University, reads, “We write in regard to the efforts of Chinese government-run ‘Confucius Institutes’ to intimidate academics and their aggressive attempts to twist academic discourse in relation to the People’s Republic of China.”
The letter quotes a report by the American Association of University Professors as saying that the institutes “function as an arm of the Chinese state” and “ignore academic freedom.”
The letter quotes the report as saying, “Most agreements establishing Confucius Institutes feature nondisclosure clauses and unacceptable concessions to the political aims and practices of the government of China.”
The political intent of the Confucius Institutes was stated in a remark in 2009 by Li Changchun, then the Chinese regime’s head of propaganda. He described the institutes as an “important part of China’s overseas propaganda setup.”
Critics have said that the institutes either provide biased information on or avoid topics the Chinese regime finds sensitive, such as Taiwan, the Tiananmen Square massacre, Tibet, and the spiritual practice Falun Gong.
In a reply to Abeler, Vaidya said the school “continually reviews these programs and ensure[s] the SCSU Confucius Institute operates in the best interest of the students and communities we serve.”
Abeler and his colleagues also wrote to the University of Minnesota, which also defended its Confucius Institute.