Bill limiting China-backed Confucius Institutes passed unanimously by Senate

Bill limiting China-backed Confucius Institutes passed unanimously by Senate

The Senate unanimously passed a bill this week that clamps down on China’s reach into U.S. universities by tightening restrictions on Confucius Institutes.

The Concerns Over Nations Funding University Campus Institutes in the United States (CONFUCIUS) Act, introduced by Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., targets Chinese-funded cultural centers on college campuses that lawmakers have said are being utilized for propaganda agendas.

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“Confucius Institutes are under the control of the Chinese Communist Party in all but name,” Kennedy said in a statement Thursday. “They are propaganda centers that threaten academic liberty and free speech without shame, and too many American schools are falling victim to the political con every day.”

The CONFUCIUS Act has already passed twice in the Senate during the previous administration but was never voted on in the House, despite having been introduced on a bipartisan basis by Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, and Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., in July 2020.

Fox News could not immediately reach House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer or Speaker Nancy Pelosi to confirm if the House plans to advance the bill.

If passed by the House and signed into law by President Biden, the measure would cut federal funding from universities that host Confucius Institutes unless they regulate all teaching staff hired for the cultural centers and oversee the curriculum.

The bill also calls for the banning of any “foreign law on any campus” and the protection of “academic freedom” at U.S. universities.

There are currently 55 Confucius Institutes in the U.S., 48 of which are located on college campuses.

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In May 2020 the College Republican National Committee and the College Democrats of America wrote a joint letter calling for the “immediate and permanent closure of all Confucius Institutes in the United States.” The letter cited concerns over human rights violations regarding the Uighurs, Hong Kongers and Tibetans, amongst other groups.

The joint letter also noted concerns over the “present state of academic freedom” as Confucius Institutes can threaten universities by withholding funding in order to achieve objectives important to the Chinese government, like prohibiting the Dalai Lama from speaking on university campuses.

U.S. officials on both sides of the aisle have been critical of the Chinese cultural program, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who issued warnings to schools in all 50 states that the PRC was running a “global influence campaign.”

President Biden’s pick for CIA director, William Burns, also told lawmakers he would advise on barring them from universities.

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“My advice for any institutions in the United States, including academic institutions, is to be extraordinarily careful of what the motives are for a variety of institutions like that and to be very careful in engaging them,” Burns said last week.