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Japan, Korea increase oppose China’s Confucius Institutes

The growing backlash against China’s Confucius Institutes, which are believed to be bases for cultural exchanges and teaching Chinese abroad, has spread to South Korea and Japan as activists and Politicians call for investigation or closure of communist state-backed learning centers

Confucius Institutes have previously faced fierce opposition in the United States, Europe and Australia, alleging that they have been used by Beijing to propagate and interfere with freedom of speech at affiliated universities. commit, and even commit acts of espionage.

South Korea is home to 22 Confucius Institutes, more than any other country. Here, a group of right-wing activists railed against these academic centers, calling them “brainwashing tools.” Meanwhile, in Japan, the government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is opening an investigation into their funding, activities and extent of influence, according to SCMP.

The first Confucius Institutes opened in the Gangnam district of Seoul in 2004 and after a period of rapid expansion under the auspices of the Chinese government, they can now be found in almost 160 countries with over 500 institutes worldwide.

Touted as educational partnerships between universities and colleges in China and those abroad, they are overseen by the Center for Language Education and Cooperation and have been widely criticized for their closely affiliated with the CCP.

At a rally outside the Chinese Embassy in Seoul last week, a group of activists led by Han Min-ho, a former culture ministry official, waved South Korean-American flags and carried according to banners stating: “There is no Confucius in Confucius Institutes.”

“Confucius Institutes are a disguised brainwashing tool of the Chinese Communist Party that aims to cultivate their supporters and sympathizers in this country,” Han told SCMP, adding that he hopes would “raise public awareness of the true nature” of the Institutes and “eject them out of the country”.

He said it was “regrettable” that Korean politicians, academics and educators seem to believe that the Institutes can be compared with other cultural and linguistic organizations such as France’s Alliance Francaise, the Association British Dong or German Goethe-Institut.

“The legislators have largely turned a blind eye to the petition from Han’s group to take action against the Institutes, because they are all afraid of China and the Communist Party raging in the world,” he said. all over the world”.

Last year, Chung Kyung-hee of South Korea’s opposition People’s Party spoke out in the National Assembly, accusing the Confucius Institute of distorting history and promoting the ideas and policies of the Chinese Communist Party.

She cites a caricature on the organization’s website (now deleted) that redefines the Korean war as “The War Against American Aggression and North Korean Aid”, in line with consistent with Communist Party propaganda is to blame the US for initiating it.

Ms. Chung called on the education authorities to open a full investigation into the activities of Confucius Institute. However, to date, Ms. Chung’s request has not been answered.

Meanwhile, in Japan, the country’s education ministry has confirmed that it will investigate all 14 Confucius Institutes over allegations they are being used to promote propaganda and possibly gather intelligence. .

“There is growing concern among our allies such as the United States and European countries – nations that share common values ​​such as freedom, democracy and the rule of law – that these institutions should be abolished. removed or asked to provide their full information,” Education Minister Koichi Haguida said at the National Assembly last month.

Since Confucius Institutes do not offer formal degrees, they are subject to very limited scrutiny in Japan for how they are run. However, they are still favored by universities, including some of the country’s top schools, because they can attract many international students.

“In Japan, our biggest concern is that these institutions create sympathy for the historical, political or cultural version of the story,” said Yoichi Shimada, a professor of International Relations at Fukui Prefectural University. of the Communist Party of China. At the same time, there are also concerns that they promote espionage within universities and beyond, into companies and organizations affiliated with these schools.”

Professor Shimada points to the recent case of University of Tennessee professor Anming Hu, who is currently on trial on charges of concealing his ties to a Chinese university while receiving research funding from his own government. United States federal government. He said it was evidence of Beijing’s ability to stealthily infiltrate university research facilities and companies working on cutting-edge technologies.

Mr. Shimada said Confucius Institutes in Japan should be “clear about their funding” and “completely open” about the courses they teach.

“The Chinese Communist Party has no intention of teaching a balanced or liberal view of history in its institutes. They want to nurture future generations of their supporters who will one day work for China’s sake,” he said.

Opposition politician Jin Matsubara, former chairman of Japan’s National Public Safety Committee, said he supported the government’s investigation into Confucius Institutes because “universities should be the basis of freedom of speech, but we should also be very careful about propaganda that incites crimes against humanity or violence of repression.”

“I believe we should openly debate and defeat the Chinese Communist Party propaganda,” he added.

The State Department under former President Donald Trump last year designated the center that operates Confucius Institutes in the US as the “foreign mission” of the Chinese government, calling it “an entity promoting propaganda campaigns”. Beijing’s malicious global transmission and influence at US facilities”.

Last month, Australian universities with Confucius Institutes were asked to submit contracts for federal government review by June 10. Meanwhile, in Europe, universities in countries including Sweden, Germany and Belgium have severed ties with Confucius Institutes, or closed them altogether, after allegations of sexual misconduct emerged. misconduct by these institutions.

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