We are a group of students in Groningen who are worried about Chinese influence in Dutch education. Our goal is to uncover this undesirable influence and to eliminate them, in particular those exercised through the Confucius Institute in Groningen. We therefore would like the University of Groningen to close their ties with the Confucius Institute, as many universities worldwide have already done.
Confucius Institutes are a worldwide program facilitated by the Chinese government to connect universities abroad with those in China. It is stated that the aim of the program is to promote Chinese culture, to support local teaching of the Chinese language, and to facilitate exchanges. The foreign university would host the institute, China would provide the funding, and the Chinese university would send the staff.
However, unlike many similar programs from different countries, such as the British Council or Goethe Institut, Confucius Institutes do not operate independently from the government. The governing body of Confucius Institutes, Hanban, is directly under China's Ministry of Education, and Confucius Institutes are often bound by contract to follow Chinese law, even as they are situated in a free country. In recent years, many Confucius Institutes worldwide have been closed down due to a series of controversies involving human rights infringements, censorship/propaganda, transparency, and espionage.
The petition including nearly 700 signatures has been submitted to the University Board on 25 March 2021, the same day where they discussed the Confucius Institute with the University Council. The Board's president, prof. Jouke de Vries, told us that "it is important that we can discuss this freely", but said that negotiations with the rest of the GCI Foundation are needed before a decision can be reached.