Tufts Closes China-Backed Confucius Institute After Protests

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March 18, 2021

Tufts University announced on Wednesday it will close its China-backed Confucius Institute after months of protests from students and local activists.

The university's closure of its Confucius Institute came after months of protests from local Taiwanese, Uighur, Tibetan, and Hong Konger citizens who, along with several student groups, saw the Chinese organization as a threat to political and academic freedom on campus.

The Confucius Institute, which the Trump administration designated as a ''foreign mission'' of the Chinese Communist Party, runs a network of campus outposts that often coerce Chinese students into advancing Beijing's interests and promote curricula that parrot China's talking points on sensitive issues. In recent months, both senior diplomats and congressional Republicans have identified the China-funded institution as a national security threat.

Howard Fass, the president of the Massachusetts chapter of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, a nonprofit that advocates for Taiwanese independence, said months of relentless commitment from activists and students helped push China off campus.

"Tufts did not [close its Confucius Institute] because they wanted to. In fact, they did everything they could to keep it as long as they could," Fass said. "They finally closed it because they saw that our collective resolve was unbending and that we would not give up with our peaceful protest for truth."

For weeks, activists protested on campus and outside the home of Tufts University president Anthony Monaco. The activists said they sent the university and multiple members of Congress more than 600 letters urging the school to close the institute.

Although the closure marks a hard-fought victory for the activists and students, Tufts reaffirmed its commitment to cooperating with China through other programs. The university maintains strong ties with Beijing Normal University, a school under the oversight of the Chinese Communist Party.

"We remain committed to international engagement with our partners and are enthused by increased student interest in Chinese language and culture," administrators said in a statement. "The [Confucius Institute] has made a valuable contribution to Chinese language and culture learning at Tufts and helped to facilitate Tufts's important relationship with [Beijing Normal University]. We appreciate all who have supported and contributed to its operation."

The school said its Confucius Institute will close in September.