Minister in talks with Groningen University to ‘Chinese influences’

Demissionary minister Van Engelshoven wants to sit down as soon as possible with the University of Groningen (RUG) to discuss her concerns about possible influence by China on education. Thats what she said in the CCIT-NTR program News and Co on NPO Radio1.

A contract held by DeccEit shows that a Groningen professor is partly paid by an organization that has links with the Chinese government, the Confucius Institute.

The professor is contractually forbidden to damage the image of China. It is clear from the contract that the Chinese partner can unilaterally cancel the appointment of the professor if his teaching and research activities seriously violate Chinese law or cause serious damage to Chinas image. Whether and when that happens, is determined by the Hanban. This is the Chinese umbrella organisation of all Confucius Institutes worldwide.

Demissionary minister Van Engelshoven is very concerned and wants to join the University of Groningen as soon as possible. Every university has a legal duty to guarantee academic freedom. That should not be margged with. And I want to keep them to that, too.

CDA and D66 in the House of Representatives want the Minister to examine the matter as soon as possible. D66-MP Van Meenen calls it unacceptable if our education is affected in this way.

CDA member of parliament Van Helvert sees it as an example of how China, through its former citizens abroad, successfully tries to gain information and influence in an improper way, as well as drastically curtailed freedom. According to Van Helvert, this is not only the case with the students, also for example Uyghurs are closely watched.

It is unclear whether the contract the professor has with the institution is in line with Dutch labour law. That too is what the minister wants to look into, said a spokesman for the Ministry of Education.

Groningen students call on their university in a petition to no longer cooperate with the Chinese Confucius Institute. According to them, China tries to influence students and employees in Groningen through this route.

The petitions authors are partly Chinese students who want to remain anonymous for fear of their safety. They are supported by the Groningen university council party De Vrije Student (DVS). Concerns about the influence of China are also growing at other universities in the Netherlands.