A U.S. university announces it will close its Confucius Institute on campus amid continued protests from multiple parties

Tufts University in Massachusetts (USA) announced on March 17 that it will not renew its agreement with the Confucius Institute when it expires in September this year. This means that the last Confucius Institute in Massachusetts will close soon.

James M. Glaser, dean of arts and sciences at Tufts, and Diana Chigas, vice provost and senior international affairs officer, announced on the university’s website that Tufts University renewed its contract with the Confucius Institute for two years in 2019, a partnership that will end this September.

Since 2015, the Confucius Institute (CITU) has “provided complementary, non-credit Chinese language and cultural instruction and programs and facilitated educational and cultural exchange and cooperation between Tufts and Beijing Normal University (BNU),” the announcement said.

The announcement stated, “As the agreement nears its expiration, we have decided to focus more on our solid and increasingly direct relationship with Beijing Normal University. Our relationship with TAU Confucius Institute will end when the agreement expires in September. Until the end of the summer, the Confucius Institute at TAU will continue to offer programs.”

The university’s announcement did not mention the controversy the Confucius Institute has generated in the local community. By Saturday, March 13, human rights supporters had been protesting in front of the university’s Confucius Institute site for 14 weeks since last October. Participants included Tibetans, Uighurs, Hong Kongers, Taiwanese, and other Chinese and local Massachusetts human rights supporters. Protest organizer Olo Bayul of the Boston Tibetan Association said they come to the protest every Saturday at 1 p.m. in hopes of reminding Tufts’ school administration and President Anthony Monaco that “the Confucius Institute is the arm of the Chinese government, and it represents this totalitarian government.”

He added that volunteers have sent nearly 700 letters over the past 2 weeks to the Tufts University administration, Massachusetts legislators, federal lawmakers and government officials at all levels, calling on them to confront the Confucius Institute’s Chinese Communist background. The recipients of these letters include U of T President Anthony Monaco and Massachusetts U.S. Representative Ayana Pressley, among others. Massachusetts Congresswoman Erika Uyterhoeven, who represents Somerville, Massachusetts, was also present to show her solidarity with the March 13 protest.

The Confucius Institute’s official Communist Party affiliation has been widely noted in the U.S. On August 13, 2020, then-President Trump registered the Confucius Institute USA in Washington, D.C., as a Foreign Missions Institute, identifying it as representing the Chinese government.

Prior to this, the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass Boston) announced in January 2019 that it would not renew its contract with the Confucius Institute. Tufts University, on the other hand, renewed its contract “conditionally” for two years in October 2019, after holding a public hearing. During the hearing at Tufts, a protester presented a “volunteer agreement” for the Confucius Institute, which states that volunteers “will not engage in activities that harm China’s national interests and will not join illegal organizations such as Falun Gong.

Tufts University, for its part, said in October 2019 that its internal team had found no evidence that the Confucius Institute was exerting undue influence, suppressing academic freedom or imposing speech controls at the university. But Tufts University will shorten the term of the new agreement to two years and add new provisions to ensure that the university has full governing authority over the program and that U.S. law and Tufts University rules apply in full to the Confucius Institute, as well as to the program’s staff, including Chinese nationals.