U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley said federal agencies, including the Senate, should continue overseeing agreements between U.S. schools and a Chinese education group.
Hawley (R-Missouri) told ABC 17 News on Tuesday that he still has concerns about the University of Missouri’s partnership with the Confucius Institute, a subsidiary of China’s Ministry of Education. The University of Missouri has an agreement with the institute, which expires in 2021. The institute provides free Chinese language classes in Columbia and helps teach Chinese language classes at Columbia Public Schools.
In a July letter, Hawley asked MU to consider dropping the Confucius Institute, citing testimony from FBI Director Christopher Wray to the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Hawley serves. Wray said the Confucius Institute was an example of China’s “soft power,” and that Hanban, the company that owns the institute, has ties to China’s Communist Party.
Hawley told ABC 17 News that a decision to continue working with the institute is ultimately up to MU, but he stressed the need for federal oversight.
“I think the intelligence community and the Senate is going to have to exert continuing oversight of these arrangements and make sure that something bad is not happening,” Hawley said.
MU spokesman Christian Basi said that an audit proved that the institute was still operating within the agreement it signed in 2016. The school updated its conflict of interest policy to better monitor other employers its faculty or their families work for.
Hawley said universities need to be vigilant to ensure they don’t fall victim to academic espionage.
“Every university that has a Confucius Institute needs to ask itself: Are we monitoring this closely? Are we making sure that our own values are upheld, that free speech is actually permitted? The safest thing to do is what many other universities have done across the country, and that’s just to close the Confucius Institutes,” Hawley said.