Thursday, July 8, 2010

Has BCIT sold out to Chinese propaganda? 孔学院的真实目的


Has BCIT sold out to Chinese propaganda?


The Confucius Institute presents itself as a goodwill gesture by Beijing to foster a cultural exchange on campus, but critics say it's really a tool for spying, infiltration and silencing opposition.

Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver Sun

Published: Wednesday, April 02, 2008

There are deeply divided views about the Confucius Institute in Vancouver: Some say it's a goodwill gesture by Beijing to teach Chinese language and culture, while others believe it's part of a plot by an emerging superpower to infiltrate and influence foreign citizens and their governments.

Controlled and mostly funded by Beijing, the institute operates in partnership with the B.C. Institute of Technology. BCIT subscribes to the goodwill theory, but some human-rights lawyers say the Confucius Institute is a sophisticated attempt to persuade a world hungry for the Chinese goods and markets to ignore China's human-rights abuses.

A report from Canada's spy agency CSIS tends toward the latter view more than the former.

BCIT's Lawrence Gu, dean of the Confucius Institute, estimates 250 students have been involved with the institute part-time since it opened -- from workshops to evening classes to a one-day course in Mandarin.

Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun

Font:****"I'm surprised people are that naive about China," David Matas, a prominent Winnipeg lawyer, said in an interview. "On the other hand, the need for money is endless and bottomless and China's got lots of it. People are very easily persuaded by money to delude themselves."

BCIT officials scoff at suggestions that China has ulterior motives for setting up five Confucius Institutes in Canada and more than 100 around the world. Many operate in partnership with post-secondary schools, but the most recent deal China has signed in Canada is with the Edmonton public school board.

"The real purpose of the Confucius Institute is to build bridges between the host country, the host institution and China," said Jim Reichert, BCIT vice-president, research and international. "It creates a mechanism whereby people can learn about China -- the culture, the basics of language, the business structures and other things that make building that bridge easier."

The Confucius Institute occupies the top floor in BCIT's Vancouver campus. It has kept a low profile since it opened with a flourish more than two years ago as the first in Canada. That ceremony was attended by 200 guests, including senior officials from federal, provincial and municipal governments, a newsletter said at the time.

Deputy B.C. Premier Shirley Bond and Chen Zhili, a senior Chinese Communist Party official, unveiled the inaugural plaque.

The institute has received little attention since then, except for a flurry of media reports last year after a declassified intelligence report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service suggested China was using the institutes as a form of "soft power" to gain influence and stature abroad.

The Confucius Institute at BCIT offers only a handful of courses, has few students and has little obvious presence in the Seymour Street building. Its website, which is not kept up-to-date, says its mandate is to promote cultural exchanges, economic and business development, international trade, Chinese language and commercial cooperation.

While BCIT runs the day-to-day operations, it is required by Chinese bylaws to report to Beijing, which sets the rules and contributes undisclosed amounts to cover costs. Receipts leaked to The Vancouver Sun show that China has wired several hundred thousand dollars to its BCIT Confucius Institute.

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