Belgian university to shut down Confucius Institute

The university accuses the Beijing funded institute of undermining academic freedom

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Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Belgian research university Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) announced on Wednesday (Dec. 11) it will terminate cooperation with the Chinese government-sponsored Confucius Institute next year after the contract expires in June 2020.

VUB has joined the ranks of universities in Europe to cease ties with the Confucius Institute. The Brussels university thereby follows in the footsteps of Leiden University, Stockholm University, University of Lyon, Stuttgart Media University, and University of Hohenheim, said CNA.

The decision was made at a board meeting and was based on the belief the collaboration no longer serves the policy objective of the school, reported CNA. Nevertheless, VUB stressed that it welcomes future partnerships with universities and scholars from China “as long as academic freedom and independence” are guaranteed, it said in a statement.

VUB President Caroline Pauwels said research freedom should be respected but the Confucius Institute appears to have failed to abide by this. While the university supports international cooperation, she added it would invest in cultivating young talent rather than “political regimes.”

The former dean of the VUB Confucius Institute had been denied entry into Belgium on espionage allegations. Beijing had refuted the claims, calling them ungrounded and with ulterior motives, wrote CNA.

Confucius Institutes established around the world are considered to be a propaganda machine for China as it projects its “sharp power” globally. The Washington Post reported in January at least 10 such institutes have been shut down at universities across the United States in a pushback against efforts to polish the image of China worldwide.