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US crackdown on Confucius Institutes demonises the programme, says China

US crackdown on Confucius Institutes demonises the programme, says China

A view of the Confucius Institute building on the Troy University campus in Troy, Alabama, US. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Kreeder13)

BEIJING: A US crackdown on Confucius Institutes demonises and stigmatises the normal functioning of the programme, China's foreign ministry said on Friday (Aug 14).

The institutes were open and transparent, and observed local laws and university rules, ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a news briefing.

China reserved the right to take further action, he added.

The United States said on Thursday the centre that manages the Chinese government-funded Institutes in the country will have to register as a foreign mission.

In a statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo labelled the Confucius Institute US Center in Washington "an entity advancing Beijing's global propaganda and malign influence campaign on US campuses and K-12 classrooms".

Pompeo said the goal of the move was to ensure American schools "can make informed choices about whether these CCP (Chinese Communist Party)-backed programmes should be allowed to continue, and if so, in what fashion".

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"The United States wants to ensure that students on US campuses have access to Chinese language and cultural offerings free from the manipulation of the Chinese Communist Party and its proxies," he said.

Pompeo said the Trump administration had made it a priority to seek fair and reciprocal treatment from China and Beijing had enjoyed free and open access to US society while denying that same access to Americans and other foreigners in China.

Last year, the US State and Education Departments promised stricter monitoring of the institutes, which have been criticised in Congress and elsewhere as de facto propaganda arms of China's Communist government.

In June, the State Department announced it would start treating four major Chinese media outlets as foreign embassies, calling them mouthpieces for Beijing.

David Stilwell, the top US diplomat for East Asia, told a briefing the dozens of Confucius Institutes in the United States were not being kicked out, but said US universities should take a "hard look" at what they were doing on campus.

Academic exchanges needed to take place without government intrusion, Stilwell said.

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Stilwell said there were about 500 Confucius classrooms in the United States affiliated with a university-based Confucius Institute.

According to the US non-profit organisation, the National Association of Scholars, there were 75 Confucius Institutes in the United States as of June, including 66 at colleges and universities.

Source: Reuters/lk

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