Call on PSU’s Board of Trustees to close China's Confucius Institute at PSU

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My name is Lhanze Tum, I am a Tibetan-American studying at Portland State University. My identity, greatly influenced by Tibetan culture and the stories of my family from Tibet, makes me who I am. As a Tibetan-American, I am proud of my Tibetan roots and have always openly shared my Tibetan heritage with people. However, my freedom to express who I am is now being threatened. Around the world, there is evidence of Confucius Institutes (CI) being directly involved in censorship and propaganda on campuses. For example, in 2009, North Carolina State canceled their public talk with His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet (global leader for peace and compassion) on the advice of its Confucius Institute Director. PSU’s Confucius Institute threatens academic freedom and free speech.  On July 26, 2018, Inside Higher Ed disclosed that PSU-CI intentionally censored out topics the Chinese government does not like us to discuss and called PSU-CI an “exemplary case” of censorship.

With grave concern, on February 1, alongside other Tibetan and Taiwanese students and human rights advocates, I wrote to the president of PSU, Dr. Rahmat Shoureshi to express our serious concerns regarding Confucius Institutes. We urged the President to use his leadership to protect our freedoms and ensure that PSU does not renew its Confucius Institute contract. We are still waiting for a response.

PSU’s mission states, “We believe everyone should be treated with integrity and respect.” As evidence mounts, it is clear that Confucius Institutes don’t believe in or abide by PSU’s mission. This is because they are controlled by the highest levels of the Chinese government and act as a tool in Beijing's aim to legitimize their authoritarian government on the world stage. Though marketed as a language and cultural exchange program, they are designed to use their foothold in academic institutions to influence and steer academic discourse. Ultimately, CIs aims to shape public opinion on China and censor and silence discussions on important political and human rights issues, such as those relating to Tibetans, Uyghurs, Taiwanese, Falun Gong practitioners, and the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Due to the growing concern and controversy, in 2018 alone, at least 10 American universities decided/committed to close their Confucius Institutes. This list includes University of West Florida, Texas A&M University System, Prairie View A&M University, University of Iowa, University of North Florida, North Carolina State University, University of  Michigan, University of Rhode Island, and the University of South Florida. And, already in 2019, the University of Massachusetts Boston and the University of Minnesota have decided to end their ties with Confucius Institute.

By partnering with the Confucius Institute, Portland State University is not standing by its own mission but instead making itself complicit in the political and propaganda efforts of a foreign authoritarian government.

Please sign this petition to join me in sending a strong message to the PSU Board of Trustees to defend the values of our academic institutions and the mission of PSU. PSU should end this partnership with the Chinese government at once.

You can also post a message on the PSU facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PortlandStateU/ or tweet them at https://twitter.com/portland_state

Thank you!

Lhanze Tum

Student, Portland State University.