By Tenzin Sangmo
PC - TCIGU Fb page
DHARAMSHALA, April 8: The Council of Gold Coast City in Australia has indicated it will stop engaging with a controversial, Beijing-controlled Tourism Confucius Institute (TCI) based at Griffith University.
“I can confirm that we have no further sessions booked with the [Tourism Confucius] Institute and no intention to engage them in future,” The Epoch Times
quoted Alison Kemp, the acting manager of the council-funded City of Gold Coast Libraries as saying in a written statement.
The City is the second largest local government area in Australia.
The decision came just weeks after the same newspaper revealed weeks ago that a free “reading community activity” at Southport Library advertised as a seminar about Chinese culture, turned out to be more about how China is rising in the world and why those who criticize Beijing are wrong.
Emeritus Professor Colin Mackerras, a sinologist and honorary director of TCI, in a presentation in November 2018, criticized the then-Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s strong words on China’s attempt to influence Australian politics and said, “China’s rise is important to the world and should be welcome to Australia.”
“Mackerras’ remarks may have breached a council committee’s recommendation that political groups should be excluded from using meeting rooms at city public libraries,” The Epoch Times
reported Kemp as stating.
Turnbull championed and passed the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme in parliament last year which requires people working for foreign countries to register as foreign agents or face criminal prosecution if found to be meddling in national affairs.
The former prime minister has said that the new laws were necessitated by the “rapidly escalating” threat of foreign interference and the “disturbing reports” that the CCP had interfered with the nation’s media coverage, universities, and the decisions of Australia’s elected representatives.
A spokesperson of the Attorney-General’s Department confirmed to the newspaper that it wrote to the institute based at Griffith University along with hundreds of other stakeholders.
Emeritus Professor John Fitzgerald from the Swinburne University of Technology’s Centre for Social Impact in an opinion article, wrote: “There is no boundary between politics and what passes for culture in contemporary China. The Cultural Revolution … was not called a ‘cultural’ revolution for nothing. The Cultural Revolution may be over, but the politics of controlling what can be said in the media and taught in universities has returned with a vengeance.”
Human Rights Watch Australia Director Elaine Pearson said the CCP has been very open about describing the CIs as a propaganda outlet and several universities in the US have closed or announced the closure of CIs, in part, because of concerns about academic freedom.
“The 13 Australian universities with CIs should seriously consider following suit.”
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, in its report, said, “Confucius Institutes (CIs) will host speakers who parrot the CCP’s propaganda points about issues like Tibet,” as an example of “soft power” influence of CIs that repeat Beijing’s lines on sensitive issues.
Confucius Institutes are facing closure in North America in defence of academic freedom and national security.
Indiana University in the US is the latest to follow suit when it closed its Confucius Institute of Indianapolis on the IUPUI campus last week.