Tufts University students and human-rights activists are waging a campaign to close an on-campus institution that national security officials describe as a Chinese Communist Party influence organization.
Students and local activists launched demonstrations at the Massachusetts-based college to demand that administrators cut ties with the Confucius Institute, an educational center on campus with deep connections to the Chinese Communist Party. Boston Uighurs Association president Maya Mitalipova, a researcher at MIT's Whitehead Institute, helped organize an Oct. 1 demonstration to bring attention to the Chinese regime's violent oppression of Muslim citizens. She compared Tufts partnering with the Confucius Institute to Nazi collaborators.
"We protested because we all have been victims of [the] Chinese Communist Party's harsh policies for decades," Mitalipova said. "Imagine during WWII, if [the] Nazi regime had funded 70-plus institutions in the U.S., what would you do? CCP is no different than a Nazi regime."
Confucius Institutes are Chinese Communist Party-funded centers that offer propagandistic programming to students under the veneer of cultural exchange. The organization pushes Communist and pro-CCP ideology toward students and in some cases restricts academic freedom. This summer, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated the Confucius Institute's U.S. headquarters as a foreign mission of the regime. The Trump administration's efforts to weed out Chinese influence have already paid dividends. Since 2019, at least 39 colleges and universities have announced plans to close Confucius Institutes on campus. Tufts is one of about 60 schools that still operate Confucius Institutes.
Tufts University spokesman Patrick Collins said that the university respected the rights of all individuals to express their opinions in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon.
"We took very seriously the concerns expressed in some critiques offered by organizations and individuals outside Tufts that a Confucius Institute could in the future attempt to make more active efforts to influence the curriculum, limit freedom of expression, or pressure Chinese students and scholars," Collins said.
Tufts has defended its relationship with Beijing in the past. In 2019, administrators revealed that the Confucius Institute at Tufts has received at least $500,000 from a CCP umbrella organization in a 12-page memo. The school stood by the group, pledging to "enhance university oversight and transparency."
Activists told the Free Beacon such commitments from the university do little to solve the core problem.
"No matter how much you want to modify a contract, it doesn't take away from the fact that you are hosting a murderous regime on your campus," Olo Bayul, president of the Tibetan Association of Boston, told the Free Beacon. "It's come to that point."
The campaign seeks to tell students what Chinese propagandists hide. At the October rally, activists disseminated photos of loved ones who are missing, as well as those who have been arbitrarily detained by the CCP. Student groups were quick to get involved. The movement has brought together a wide-ranging coalition that includes the campus's branch of Amnesty International and the College Republicans.
"The protests against Tufts's Confucius Institute are about academic freedom and human rights," a statement by the Tufts College Republicans reads. "The Tufts administration should take these concerns seriously."
Multiple advocacy organizations told the Free Beacon that they hope to demonstrate in front of the Confucius Institute at Tufts on a weekly basis until the organization is shut down.
Chris Choi, a member of Hong Kong Social Action Movements in Boston, maintained that the key to success for their efforts is to increase awareness among all Americans.
"The Confucius Institute is an example of how everyday Americans should be worried about the Communist regime," Choi said. "We have to educate the public about the danger of having Communist influence on American soil. They can't do that on our watch."