Campus Reform | UNL shut down its Confucius Institute. Is academic freedom now opening up?

UNL shut down its Confucius Institute. Is academic freedom now opening up?

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln shuttered its Confucius Institute due to budgetary concerns.

For the first time ever, the school will host an event about the Uyghur genocide.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln closed its Confucius Institute due to budgetary concerns. Not long after that move, the school announced it would host an event about the Uyghur genocide, pointing toward an increase in academic freedom amid the exit of the Chinese-funded organization.

In September, the university announced that it would close down its chapter of the Confucius Institute as part of a budget overhaul. Founded in 2007, the University of Nebraska’s chapter was among the first in the nation. The school partnered with Xi’an Jiaotong University, Zhejiang University City College, and Northwest Agricultural and Forestry University through the Confucius Institute.

[RELATED: House Republicans urge Biden to reconsider rule on CCP's Confucius Institutes]

For what appears to be the first time, the university will host a program about China’s extermination campaign against the Uyghur ethnic group following the Confucius Institute’s closure.


The event will discuss China’s efforts to systematically detain and sterilize 1.5 million ethnic Uyghurs in context, from “the Qing conquest of Xinjiang and the Dzungar genocide in the 1750s to China’s war on terror and anti-muslim policies in the 2000s.”

[RELATED: Biden chalks up China's Uyghur genocide to different cultural 'norms.' Can he be trusted to keep CCP off college campuses?]

Jennifer Zeng — a human rights activist who survived a Chinese labor camp — told Campus Reform that the Chinese government is zealous in its attempts to censor unapproved speech.

Zeng says that there are many modern examples of “free speech being limited or restricted by Chinese Communist Party-sponsored organizations.” The Chinese government cancels “speeches of people whom the CCP does not approve.”

“In this way our free speech was already hurt or limited,” she explained. “It is good to see that there is positive change in this regard. I hope we won't go back again.”

A report from the United States Senate affirms that “Confucius Institute funding comes with strings that can compromise academic freedom.” Teachers sign agreements with the Chinese government “pledging they will not damage the national interests of China.”

Campus Reform reports extensively on the encroachment of the Confucius Institute on American college campuses. Most recently, President Joe Biden axed a rule that would promote transparency on the ties between universities and the Confucius Institute — a move that prompted a letter from leading House Republicans.

[RELATED: House Republicans urge Biden to reconsider rule on CCP's Confucius Institutes]

Campus Reform reached out to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft