Friday 30 September 2022

VU returns human rights research funding from China

The university’s main entrance. Photo: Galaufs via Wikimedia Commons

The VU university in Amsterdam will stop accepting funds from China to finance a centre for human rights following revelations by broadcaster NOS.

The Cross Cultural Human Rights Centre (CCHRC), whose mission is ‘to develop a global vision on human rights’, received between €250,000 and €300,000 from the Southwest University of Political Science and Law in Chongging in 2018, 2019 and 2020, documents in the hands of the broadcaster showed.

The university initially defended the funding but now claims even ‘a semblance’ of partiality in the work of the centre had to be avoided. According to NOS, several people affiliated with the centre had defended the Chinese human rights record in public and on Chinese state television.

Education minister Robbert Dijkgraaf said in a reaction that ‘knowledge institutes must be alert to unwanted influence from other countries’ while MPs said they would be asking questions in parliament. The education inspectorate said it had not received ‘signals of Chinese influence’ at other institutes.

In 2020 VU was one of two Amsterdam universities to enter into a controversial collaboration with Chinese tech giant Huawei. Both VU and UvA were warned by the government about possible involvement of the company in spying activities for the Chinese state.

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