(This article is translated from Swedish to English by google translate.)
Source: Universitetsläraren by Per-Olof Eliasson, March 20, 2019
Confucius institutes, which are run by the Chinese state at universities in other countries, expanded rapidly in 2006-2007. But since 2013, the rate of increase has slowed down.
Filmmaker Doris Liu recently showed her documentary In the Name of Confucius at the University of Gothenburg.
In the film, we will follow Sonia Zhao, who was a teacher at the Confucius Institute at McMaster University in Canada, through reconstructions. To get the job as a teacher in Chinese in Canada, she is forced to sign a contract before leaving China. There she undertakes, among other things, not to practice or advocate the forbidden movement Falun Gong that she is a follower of.
Sonia Zhao later jumps off the job at the Confucius Institute. Then she is represented by a human rights lawyer and receives asylum in Canada. The McMaster University Confucius Institute will be closed in 2013.
Contest for Toronto Institute
In the film we also follow the battle for a Confucius institute in Toronto’s school district, Canada’s largest. The issue is addressed in 2014 in a series of meetings in the school district board, the Toronto District School Board, TDSB. When parents protest that they think their children are exposed to indoctrination, the question is examined in the school district’s board.
At the Board’s first meeting on the matter, protesters gather outside the building. They protest against the Confucius Institute by silently wearing black binders over their mouths.
But to the next meeting, pro-Chinese protesters have also been mobilized and for each meeting the atmosphere between protesters and counter-demonstrators is becoming increasingly hot.
One of the meetings is a public hearing where, among other things, the departed teacher Sonia Zhao appears. At the hearing, a former chief of the Canadian intelligence service also describes the Confucius Institutes as a “Trojan horse”. He believes that the institutes try to make young people loyal to China in order to be able to recruit them as agents in the future. Others express concerns about the lack of freedom of expression within the Confucius Institutions.
At the fourth and final meeting in TDSB, the decision – with votes 20–2 – will close the Confucius Institute.
Try to stop filming
In a side sequence in the film, Doris Liu visits another school district. There it appears that big money is involved. Those responsible interrupt the interview when Doris Liu insists on getting answers about freedom of speech.
At the hearing of the film, Doris Liu tells that she has shown the film on 80 occasions in twelve countries. On three occasions, Chinese authorities have tried to stop the show, in Japan and in Australia.
The latest occasion was at Victoria University in Melbourne. Ten days before the show, the university informed the organizers that it had become a double booking so that there was no place. Eventually it emerged that the Chinese consulate exerted pressure on the university.
“But it ended with the film being shown in Parliament in South Wales instead,” says Doris Liu.
Fastest expansion in 2006-2007
Doris Liu’s research shows that in December 2018 there were 548 Confucius Institutes distributed on all continents and 1,193 Confucius Classrooms, which is a smaller unit.
She explains that the Confucius Institutes expanded as fastest as 2006–2007 when a new institute opened every five to six days.
But since the first Confucius institutes in Canada were closed in 2013, the institutes have received greater attention, with the rate of increase having decreased; only 23 new people came in in 2018.
So far, 25 Confucius institutes have been closed down, in both North America and Europe.
– They are generally shut down in silence because they do not want to publicly offend the Chinese government.
In Sweden, the Confucius institutes at the universities in Stockholm and Karlstad and at Blekinge Institute of Technology have been closed. There has also been a Confucius classroom in Uppsala. Now there is Confucius Institute at Luleå University of Technology and at upper secondary level in Borlänge and a Confucius classroom in Falkenberg.
– Western democracies respect human rights and play the rules. But it does not do Chinese authorities, they do not respect any democratic rules. How to handle it? It must be remembered that they can use how ugly methods at any time, says Doris Liu towards the end of Question Time.
This article is translated from Swedish to English by google translate.
Original Title：Ny dokumentär skildrar omstridda institut
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