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Canada is Clamping Down on CCP Interference in Universities, So Should Britain

This blog is authored by Georgia Gilholy. She is Media and Communications Manager at The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation and a journalist.


On Monday Canada finally announced plans to restrict researchers affiliated with, mainly Chinese, universities from researching subjects deemed “sensitive” to its national security.


They will also introduce the same restrictions for several Iranian and Russian institutions, but it is clear that Ottawa rightly judges Beijing to be its biggest threat. 


Canada’s clampdown aims to shield a slew of advanced and emerging technologies, with the government set to withhold grants from applicants linked to universities associated with defence and security entities of the aforementioned hostile states.


As it stands, the policy will only impact federal funding, but the Government says it could serve as guidance for provincial governments and other bodies.


These new rules will implement a specific two-step security process for grant applicants. It will first investigate whether the technology in question is “sensitive,” and then if the research team is being “supported” by any of the 103 blacklisted institutions. If the answer to both probes is “yes”, funding will be refused. 

 

This process could become one of the most tight yet trialled by a Western government, hinting at how dire the status quo is.


It is high time that Westminster pursued a similar approach—and much more—as an urgent priority.


That Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has already quietly binned his leadership pledge to ban Confucius Institutes lays bare No 10’s hesitancy toward any concrete action against CCP interference. It is time to shake off this complacency and face these pressing threats. 


The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation's recent report, published jointly with the Civitas think tank, found that one-third of all Chinese research funds given to a string of top UK universities come from entities that “trace back to the Chinese military in one form or another.”


The report consequently urged the UK to outlaw “all university funding, research collaborations, and donations which are associated with Chinese companies,” especially those subject to US sanctions, which also pose obvious risks to Britain.


That many UK universities refused to respond to FOIs on the matter also hints at the scale of the challenge.


Perhaps these universities know their links to the CCP would not be well received by the British public, and they fear public criticism or government action.


Whatever the reasons for their reluctance, British universities which receive billions in taxpayers' money every year should not be allowed to cooperate with hostile states.


Despite a cache of ever-expanding evidence that China is a threat to British national security, there is a woeful lack of courage and direction among the British establishment. 


Hong Kongers on UK campuses have routinely reported being harassed, assaulted and even followed to their homes by pro-Beijing students. It is has been reported that the Chinese regime mishandled the Covid-19 pandemic, endangering the lives of its own citizens and the world. There have been extensive allegations of CCP agents stealing  research, hacking UK government departments. Authorities in Hong Kong, mainland China, and their agents abroad continue to harass and persecute British citizens like Jimmy Lai and British nationals and asylum seekers who have fled overseas.


Moreover, under Article 38 of the Hong Kong National Security Law, research critical of the Xi regime and its policies is forbidden. The Chinese Communist Party is not coy about forging an atmosphere of fear for all those who value truth, in Britain and beyond. 


We must meet the CCP’s aggression with equal fervour on behalf of academic and civil liberties. There is no silver bullet solution to this multi-headed hydra of threats, but following in Canada’s footsteps this time around would at least be a promising start.


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