US Senate passes bill to control Confucius Institutes on college campuses

The US Senate on Thursday unanimously passed an Act to impose limitations on Confucius Institutes situated on college campuses. The Confucius Act, sponsored by Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, governs cultural organizations “directly or indirectly” funded by the Chinese government. Confucius Institutes hold cultural events, teach Chinese, and sponsor trips to China on college campuses.

On the Senate floor, Kennedy said the institutes serve as “propaganda arms” of the Chinese government and do not allow discussions on controversial international topics like “the Uighurs or the people of Tibet or Hong Kong or what happened at Tiananmen Square.”

Under the Act, institutions of higher education will not receive federal funding unless their contract with a Confucius Institute includes language to:

  • protect academic freedom at the institution;
  • prohibit the application of any foreign law on any campus of the institution; and
  • grant full managerial authority of the Confucius Institute to the institution, including full control over what is being taught, the activities carried out, the research grants that are made, and who is employed at the Confucius Institute.

Some colleges, including Emory University, have elected to close their institutes. Emory announced on August 18 that it would not renew its relationship with the institute when it expires in November. In a statement, the university said it “remains committed to the free exchange of ideas” and its decision “does not reflect any diminished interest in engagement with China.”

Kennedy believes some universities depend too heavily on funding from the Communist Party of China to cut ties with the institutes.

In recent months, US leaders have increasingly condemned China’s treatment of the Uighur ethnic minority and of the citizens of Hong Kong.