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Beijing’s Infiltration in Action: Purchase of British Private Schools

The British newspaper the Daily Mail reported on February 21 that “Hundreds of independent schools left in dire financial straits by the coronavirus pandemic are being targeted by Chinese investors.” “Nine of the 17 schools under Chinese control are owned by firms whose founders or bosses are among China’s most senior Communist Party members.”

“One firm admitted its acquisition of British schools is aimed at supporting China’s controversial Belt and Road strategy, which aims to expand Beijing’s global influence.”

As companies controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are seeking to expand their influence on the British education system, the public is concerned that Beijing’s tentacles are reaching British classrooms.

“Schools are using educational tools for teaching children a ‘whitewashed’ view of China.”

Ma Jian, a Chinese-born British writer, told Radio Free Asia that the CCP is pursuing Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream” and its next target is the young generation of democratic nations. “Britain has basically turned itself into a trading branch of China. Not only has it coupled with China in business, economy, and trade, but also in cultural affairs. You will find that universities, research institutes, middle schools, and elementary schools have got a lot of money from China. Companies are implementing of Xi Jinping’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ and ‘Chinese Dream’ by means of the acquisition of these private schools. The education deals are aiming at the next generation.”

Wang Jianhong, a scholar who has been concerned about the human rights situation in China, also believes that these Chinese companies are controlled by Beijing. Taking advantages of the rule that democratic countries cannot interfere much in market transactions, the Chinese government has been promoting its global expansion. After years of infiltration into the British academic community, the academia has seen the trend of self-censorship and even whitewashing for the CCP. “The CCP has been stepping up its investment in Britain’s private schools and education system. How could an ordinary Chinese company buy British private schools? They definitely have government background. As the basic education in the UK is directly owned by companies controlled by the CCP, we are worried about the ideological infiltration into the curriculum. Even if you have got rid of the Confucius Institute, the CCP has all kinds of methods, including the acquisition of private schools.”

Some British politicians expressed a sense of concern. Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “China’s strategic understanding and reach means that they have an advantage in seeking to influence others and using established brands, including some of our own, to achieve that position. … We need to decide what it is we are prepared to defend, but before that we would need to understand what it is we want.”

Reported by the Daily Mail, “A key player in the market is Bright Scholar, which bought a number of schools and colleges in 2018 and 2019, including Bournemouth Collegiate School, St Michael’s School in Llanelli, Carmarthanshire – where Justice Secretary Robert Buckland and singer Cerys Matthews were once pupils – and Bosworth Independent College in Northampton. … Bright Scholar is owned by Yang Huiyan, who is reportedly worth £20 billion, making her Asia’s richest woman, and was founded by her father Yang Guoqiang, a member of the Communist Party’s highest- ranking advisory council.”

“The Wanda Group, which invests in technology, real estate, hotels and the media, bought the schools in 2017 through City of London based asset manager London & Oxford Group. … It was founded by Wang Jianlin, a former People’s Liberation Army soldier who is worth an estimated £10 billion and is a member of China’s senior Communist Party advisory council.

“Two more schools – Kingsley School in Bideford, Devon, and Heathfield Knoll School in Worcestershire – are owned by China First Capital Group, which has senior Communist Party members on its board.”

“Riddlesworth was bought by the Confucius International Education Group in 2015 and its website lauds its links with the late Princess. … The firm’s owner, Kong Lingtao, who claims to be a direct descendant of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, also boasts of his visit to Buckingham Palace in 2014, when he met Prince Philip.”

Another company, the Ray Education Group, bought Adcote School for Girls near Shrewsbury, Shropshire, and Myddelton College in Denbigh, Wales, in 2018.

“On its website, Ray Education details plans to use its British schools to help expand to other countries as part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road strategy to boost China’s global economic and political influence.”

Source: Radio Free Asia, February 22, 2021
Daily Mail, February 20, 2021