British MPs are seeking new legislation to stop China’s Confucius Institutes from entering the United Kingdom.
On Wednesday, backbenchers from the major political parties proposed an amendment to the Higher Education Bill that would ban institutions supported by the Chinese regime if they were found to restrict freedom of expression and academic study.
New institutes will be required under the bill—which is set to be debated in the House of Commons next week—to announce their establishment and allow for thorough monitoring of their operations, including complete disclosures on financing and “activities.”
In addition, lawmakers want the measure to require universities to develop alternatives to Chinese state-funded cultural learning centers.
Confucius Institutes have been under intense scrutiny and criticism in recent years for eroding academic standards and exerting an inappropriate influence in various Western nations, notably the United States, Germany and Australia.
The Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Tom Tugendhat, a Conservative MP, is a supporter of the proposal.
“We have seen the pressure that the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] puts on those who speak out. We should not be reliant on an authoritarian state to teach its language in Britain,” he told Politico.
The amendment was submitted by Conservative MP Alicia Kearns, who said the CCP “strangles freedom of speech at home yet uses British universities to rewrite the realities of its historic and contemporary actions.”
Conservative China hawks such as former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith and Damian Green, as well as Labour’s Chris Bryant and the Liberal Democrats’ Alistair Carmichael, have all endorsed the proposal.
It seems probable that the Commons speaker, with such bipartisan support, will put the amendment to a vote when the Higher Education Bill is brought before the House of Commons again in the next stage of its passage into law.
There are now 30 Confucius Institutes in the United Kingdom, all of which are supported by the CCP in whole or in part.
Britain’s universities have taken £24 million ($30 million) in Chinese aid, according to a recent Freedom of Information request by The Spectator.
Cultural and educational activities are offered by Confucius Institutes. They were initially financed and organized by a government-affiliated organization. In 2020, they were renamed the Centre for Language Education and Cooperation after charges of foreign propaganda and inappropriate influence.
According to senior CCP official Li Changchun, Confucius Institutes are “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda setup”.