Stockholm University closes down Chinese Confucius Institute

Doubt about ideological and political independence

© Hector Melo A./Flickr</a>

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) appreciates that the political and ideological independence of the Confucius Institutes – which are promoted by China – will now be put to the test in Europe. At the turn of the year, following public criticism, the Stockholm University announced the closure of the local Confucius Institute. "This should also be a clear sign for the German universities to consider whether the close cooperations between the Faculties of Sinology and the Confucius Institutes might be compromising the independence of science and teaching," said Ulrich Delius, the STP's Asia-expert, in Göttingen on Tuesday. Some of the universities in the US have already terminated their cooperation with the Confucius Institutes after massive criticism. In Canada, there is a public debate concerning the issue.

On December 29, 2014, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stockholm, Astrid Soderbergh Widding, had informed the daily newspaper "Svenska Dagbladet" that the Confucius Institute will be closed on June 30, 2015. In her opinion, it is generally questionable to establish university institutes that are financed by another nation. Before, the State University of Pennsylvania (USA) had terminated its cooperation with the Confucius Institute on December 31, 2014 – and the University of Chicago had announced the suspension of its negotiations concerning cooperations with the Confucius Institute in September 2014.

"The Confucius Institutes are not apolitical, even if they are trying to give that impression," said Delius. Deputy Prime Minister Liu Yandong is Head of the Institute's Board – and she is considered one of the most influential politicians in China. She was born in 1945 in the province of Jiangsu and joined the Communist Party in 1964. She is currently the only female member of the Politburo and is seen as a promising candidate for important party and state offices.

Liu Yandong likes to present herself as if she were promoting intercultural exchange. "But she did not show respect for other cultures when dealing with Tibetans and Uyghurs," criticized Delius. "We are convinced that she was largely responsible for the targeted destruction of the traditional society and culture of the Tibetans and Uyghurs during her tenures as Executive Vice President (1995 to 2002) and Director (2002 to 2007) of the United Front Work Department (UFWD)."

The UFWD, subordinate to the Central Committee of the Communist Party, is largely responsible for the Chinese nationality policy. Its scope includes decisions starting from the seizure of pictures of the Dalai Lama to the introduction of new restrictions concerning the freedom of belief and opinion. Further, Liu Yandong was also the most important Chinese point of contact for the negotiators of the Dalai Lama when they tried to enter a dialogue with the Chinese leadership – credibly, but in vain – between 2002 and 2010.

Ulrich Delius, head of STP's Asia department, is available for further questions: +49 551 49906 27 or asien@gfbv.de.

Header Photo: Hector Melo A./Flickr