Campus Reform | Want more info on UMich China ties? That will cost you $1,200.

Want more info on UMich China ties? That will cost you $1,200.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, a Washington Free Beacon reporter asked the University of Michigan about a research partnership with China.

The school refused to provide the information unless the outlet paid more than $1,200 in fees.

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A journalist filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the University of Michigan to seek information about its research partnership with China. However, the public university refused to offer the information unless the outlet agreed to cough up more than $1,200. 

Yuichiro Kakutani — a reporter at the Washington Free Beacon — requested information from the University of Michigan through the Freedom of Information Act regarding its $25 million deal with the Beijing Institute of Collaborative Innovation. 

In response, the university requested a $1,204 fee.

The Freedom of Information Act permits Americans to request records from government programs, including public universities. 

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While modest fees to cover information gathering and photocopying expenses are not uncommon, Kakutani only requested two specific documents — the “exploratory project proposal” and “full proposal” — that academics complete when requesting funding from the program. According to Kakutani, the documents “would illuminate key details about the BICI-backed research projects, including whether patent rights will be granted to U.S.- or China-based entities.”

University of Michigan spokesman Rick Fitzgerald told Campus Reform that the school has “complete confidence” that the approach being taken with the Free Beacon’s request “is consistent with the protocols that our FOIA office applies to all such requests.”

“The Free Beacon was very specific with its request and the fee deposit request that U-M sent reflects the time estimated for the FOIA office to carefully review the 15 research proposals totaling approximately 500 pages for any exempt material,” said Fitzgerald. “If the estimate of time this will take turns out to be less than anticipated, that shorter time will be reflected in the balance due when the documents are provided.”

Campus Reform has reported extensively about the close ties between American academia and Chinese entities.

In December, Campus Reform reported that American universities accepted more than $24 million from Chinese government sources since 2015. According to data from the federal Department of Education, the University of Michigan reported a contract with an unnamed Chinese government entity, worth nearly $300,000.

[RELATED: American universities have accepted over $24 million from CCP since 2015]

Texas A&M University alone accepted $10 million from Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology — an institution controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. Other leading American universities — including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Emory University, and the University of Texas-Austin — also reported funds from the Chinese government.

In August 2020, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Confucius Institutes — which are common on American college campuses — as “foreign missions.”

Pompeo called the program “an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign on U.S. campuses and K-12 classrooms.”

Campus Reform reached out to Kakutani for comment; this article will be updated accordingly. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft