British lawmakers are growing concerned about the growing influence of Chinese Communist officials and organizations on UK university campuses, putting academic freedom at risk.
“We heard alarming evidence,” stated a report from the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee published on Nov. 5.
Among the examples cited was an incident recounted by Christopher Hughes, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics.
“I have seen patriotic Chinese students in Trafalgar Square in London, because I went along to look at the Hong Kong demonstration, and I would say it was more like hate crime. … it was really intimidating and threatening,” he told British lawmakers at a Sept. 3 parliament hearing.
Chinese state media have promulgated the narrative that ongoing Hong Kong protests are a separatist movement fomented by Western countries. In recent months, many mainland Chinese studying abroad in the West have lashed out at local supporters of Hong Kong protests—harassing and sometimes physically attacking them.
Hughes added: “It is that kind of activity where there are clear links of direction from the [Chinese] consulate.”
In Hong Kong, mass protests against Beijings encroachment of the citys autonomy are now in their fifth consecutive month, as protesters demand that the city government fulfill their demands for greater democracy. Overseas Hongkongers and supporters have held rallies in cities around the world.
Hughes also mentioned an occasion when Confucius Institute officials confiscated papers and tore out all the pages that mentioned Taiwan at an academic conference in Portugal, so that other academics wouldnt see them.
Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory, despite it being a self-ruled island with its own democratically-elected government, military, and currency. It has thus sought to undermine Taiwans international standing.
According to a study published the U.S. Senates subcommittee on investigations, the Chinese regime has channeled over $158 million to fund Confucius Institutes in the United States since 2006. The study found that Beijing controls every aspect of the institutes, including funding, hiring of staff, and programming.
Beijing has established more than 100 Confucius Institutes at U.S. schools, while there are at least 29 in the UK.
The UK report also identified Chinese Students and Scholars Associations (CSSA)—which are funded by Beijing—as an instrument of interference, citing comments made by Charles Parton, senior associate fellow at the UK think tank Royal United Services Institute.
CSSAs are student groups for international Chinese students. There are now over 100,000 Chinese international students in the UK.