Senate Passes CONFUCIUS Act to Protect Free Speech at U.S. Colleges
Jun 11, 2020
WASHINGTON – The Senate passed the Concerns Over Nations Funding University Campus Institutes in the United States (CONFUCIUS) Act by unanimous consent, legislation supported by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and introduced by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). This legislation works to address concerns about Confucius Institutes’ suppressing free speech on American college campuses.
At universities across the U.S., the Chinese government is waging an influence war through its Confucius Institutes. Though ostensibly designed to promote cultural studies on college campuses, Confucius Institutes receive direct funding from the Chinese government.
The CONFUCIUS Act reduces the Chinese Communist Party’s influence on U.S. colleges and universities by granting full managerial authority of Confucius Institutes to the universities that host them.
Specifically, the CONFUCIUS Act provides that Confucius Institutes must:
- Protect academic freedom on the campus where the Confucius Institute is located,
- Prohibit the application of any foreign law on any campus of the institution, and
- Grant full control over what a Confucius Institute teaches, the activities it carries out, the research grants it gives, and the individuals it employs to the college or university on which it is located.
This bill would prohibit federal government funding to colleges and universities that host Confucius Institutes and are not in compliance with the above provisions. The funding prohibition would only apply to funding directed to the college or university and would not include funding disbursed to students, such as Pell Grants.
Grassley has closely monitored the actions of Confucius Institutes’ in the United States and the role they play on college campuses. In 2018, he sent a letter to then U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions seeking information on whether the U.S. Department of Justice has made efforts to look into Confucius Institutes and their potential obligation to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
In 2019, as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Grassley held a hearing titled, “Foreign Threats to Taxpayer-Funded Research: Oversight Opportunities and Policy Solutions” and raised concerns about Confucius Institutes.
Grassley later sent a letter to all 74 colleges, universities and school districts with known active Confucius Institutes urging each school to request an FBI briefing to fully understand the academic research and national security threats posed by Confucius Institutes operating on campus.
Grassley also highlighted this issue in an op-ed which can be found here.