University closes its Confucius Institute after spying claims

One of Belgium’s leading universities has decided to close the Chinese state-funded Confucius Institute on its campus, following accusations that the former head professor conducted espionage for China, writes Stuart Lau for South China Morning Post.

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) confirmed that it would not extend its contract with the institute when the agreement expires next June, although it did not refer to the espionage claims. The university said cooperation with Confucius Institute – whose stated aims include promoting Chinese language and culture and facilitating cultural exchanges – was “not in line with [our] principles of free research”, based on the information it had obtained. “The university is of the opinion that cooperating with the institution is no longer consistent with its policies and objectives,” it said in a statement on its website.

In October, Belgian security services accused Song Xinning, former head of the Confucius Institute at VUB, of working as a recruiter for Chinese intelligence. The Belgian newspaper De Morgen reported that VUB had ignored a warning from the state security service about the institute’s activities. Song was subsequently barred from entering the Schengen Area – comprising 26 European countries – for eight years.
Full report on the South China Morning Post site