Australia to Shut Down Chinese Learning Institutions Due to Propaganda Suspicion

Australia Oceania Higher Education News by Erudera News May 10, 2021


Australia’s federal government intends to close the Chinese learning centers, Confucius Institutes after the latter has been suspected of functioning as a plank of the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda.

The Confucius institutes, a partnership product of 13 Australian universities and Chinese higher education institutions, will potentially be terminated.

Marise Payne, the Foreign Minister, has already proposed to cancel Victoria’s Belt and Road agreement, and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University’s Chinese Medicine Confucius Institute announced its cancellation this year, reports.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman, it is yet undetermined whether Senator Payne will cancel the institution’s contracts on a “case-by-case basis” since the Australian universities have anticipated getting the contracts reviewed by June 10.

Universities are required to notify all existing arrangements with foreign governments that fall within the scope of the scheme, including where they relate to Confucius Institutes,” the spokesman stated.

So far, four universities, including the University of Sydney, Victoria University, University of Queensland, and the University of WA, have submitted their contracts with Confucius Institutes to be reviewed. The University of Melbourne, Latrobe, and University of New South Wales said they plan to undergo the contract review by the end of the deadline.

Based on the foreign veto laws adopted in December, Senator Payne gained the authority to cancel agreements between foreign governments and Australia if the latter’s policies are being breached.

The Confucius Institutes are Chinese culture and language learning courses that have been positioned in a defensive mode after Australia and China relations aggravated.

Although Beijing Confucius Institutes agreed to permit or share the decision-making authority above the institutions’ teaching content in 2019, the act won’t put at halt the latter’s termination.

According to a spokeswoman at Sydney University, a declaration by the Attorney General’s Department noted that Confucius Institutes were not a “foreign government-related entity” serving the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme.

However, Melbourne University claims that Nanjing University partly funds the Confucius Institute, but the latter remains independent of its operations.

The head of Parliament’s security and intelligence committee, James Paterson, said that universities need to be careful about hosting the centers.

“Universities should carefully consider whether hosting an entity funded by a foreign authoritarian government engaged in serious human rights abuses for the purposes of promoting its soft power is something consistent with their values,” Senator Paterson noted.

Nevertheless, the director of Lowy Institute’s foreign policy program, Natasha Kassam, claimed that it wasn’t entirely safe that Australian students would be receiving propaganda-free information on Taiwan or China’s human rights. Anyways, according to her, the veto power to terminate the centers was “overreach.”

In contrast, the Australian director of Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson, supported the government’s decision by asserting that the centers’ existence was “extremely problematic.”

According to federal data published recently, Australian universities have experienced a 22 percent drop in international enrolments from China, counting 12,454 enrollment in 2020.

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