Minister: Contract may lead to censorship
UG cuts ties with Hanban over Chinese professorship
The contract between the university and the controversial organisation ends this year. Answering parliamentary questions in the Lower House, education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven said it would not be renewed.
Officially, Hanban is an organisation committed to ‘providing the world with educational tools and services for the Chinese language and culture’. However, critics consider it an extension and propaganda machine for the communist regime in Beijing.
Funding for the professorship was called into question in February, after broadcaster NOS found the contract professor of sinology Oliver Moore has with the UG and Hanban. The contract states that Moore isn’t allowed to break Chinese law or damage China’s reputation. If he does, the Hanban may terminate his contract without input from other parties.
The UG defended itself by saying the contract ‘did not harm academic freedom in any way’. The professor’s salary is paid by the UG, and the university assesses his position. ‘As such, he does not depend on Hanban funding, neither privately nor as a scientist’, according to the UG.
Not everyone agreed with this assessment and, as her answers to the House show, neither does the minister. A stipulation like the one above could lead to the people involved feeling pressured to not do anything that might endanger funding, and therefore to censorship, either of themselves or others. ‘We don’t want that’, said Van Engelshoven.
‘Independence is an important part of the Dutch code of conduct for academic integrity. This principle states that researchers cannot be influenced by non-academic considerations, like those of a political nature’, the minister writes.
Now that the UG has decided to cut ties with the Hanban concerning the professorship, that discussion has come to an end. However, the university’s close ties to the Groningen Confucius Institute (GCI) are still a sore subject. These institutes have been under fire all over the world for the same reasons the Hanban organisation has been. Several of the institutes were closed by the authorities.
Van Engelshoven says it’s up to the UG to safeguard academic freedom at the Groningen organisation. ‘I’m in talks with the UG to see whether any action should be taken and if so, what kind.’ The Inspectorate of Education has also contacted the UG.
Earlier, the Clingendael Institute recommended in a report on China’s influence on education in the Netherlands to ‘foster’ the transparency of the Confucius Institutes and ‘to potentially segregate them from Dutch knowledge instituted’. The minister is taking the recommendation into consideration.