Australian universities face probe over China deals

AFPSYDNEY (AFP-Jiji) — Australian universities are being investigated over their contracts with Chinese-state run Confucius Institutes, officials said Thursday, amid fresh revelations over the scope of Beijing’s control of teaching in the centers.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said the government was looking at whether deals between thirteen Australian universities and the Confucius Institutes breach new foreign interference laws. The organization — which has been likened to France’s Alliance Francaise, Spain’s Instituto Cervantes and the British Council — teaches students about Chinese language and culture. However critics say the classes offer a selective view of Chinese life — purposely avoiding sensitive topics such as the Tiananmen Square crackdown or Tibet. A 2018 study by German academic Falk Hartig found that 50 Confucius Institutes in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas had a “clear agenda to present an apolitical version of China.”

Australia’s government has pressed universities to register the institutes — run by China’s ministry of education — under new laws to track foreign actors seeking to influence Australian politics and governance. Porter said his office has been “undertaking inquiries with a number of universities over recent months to ascertain whether certain arrangements should be registered” and meeting Confucius Institutes’ representatives.

“I have now asked my department to specifically examine the arrangements between all Confucius Institutes and universities in order to ensure compliance with the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme.”Speech

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