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Beijing Funds a Professorship at Distinguished University in Germany

Recently, several alumni from the Free University of Berlin (FUB) published an open letter to Germany’s Federal Minister of Education and Research, the Mayor of Berlin, and the President of FUB, calling for clarification on the issue of China funding a German professorship position in the East Asian Studies Department. They called for an immediate end to such a practice. The advocate of the open letter, David Missal, had been deported from China in August 2018 for following the story of a Chinese activist lawyer who the regime had suppressed.

According to the Berlin based Daily Mirror newspaper, the Chinese government agency Hanban has being funding a professorship at FUB. The professor will create a Chinese teaching program while, at the same time, serving as the head of the Confucius Institutes in Berlin. The newspaper also reported that the German government was aware that Hanban is a cultural institution under the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and that China and the CCP are trying to exert influence on Germany’s China scholars through the activities of the Confucius Institutes, which have close ties with Hanban. Signatories of the open letter are worried that such a language teaching program will exclude articles that are critical of the CCP. Because this professorship receives funding from China, it faces a greater risk of self-censorship. One cannot even rule out the possibility that the CCP will fund political science professorships in the future.

The open letter made four requests. These include the exposure of the contents of the contract signed between Hanban and the FUB on the professor position; clarification of the channels via which such an agreement was reached; an announcement of the measures planned to prevent Hanban and the CCP’s influence on teaching contents; and a request that either Hanban’s contract for this new professor position be terminated immediately or the position be funded through other channels.

The Daily Mirror reported in December of last year that the Liberal Democratic Party’s parliamentary group warned against China’s influence over German universities through cultural institutions. There are currently 19 Confucius Institutes in Germany, most of which cooperate with German universities. The Confucius Institute at the Free University of Berlin started in 2006. It is the first Confucius Institute in Germany.

Source: Deutsche Welle, January 21, 2020