Monday 23 May 2022

VU takes Chinese-backed human rights centre offline to address concerns

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

The VU university in Amsterdam has taken its Cross Cultural Human Rights Centre (CCHRC) offline in response to criticism of its funding from China.

Last week it emerged that the university received up to €300,000 over three years from the Southwest University of Political Science and Law in Chongging. Several people affiliated with the CCHRC had defended China’s human rights record in public and on Chinese state television.

In a statement, the centre said ‘not all publications on the website of the CCHRC’ were compatible with its vision of the ‘universality of human rights’.

‘We also want to check whether a sufficiently clear distinction is made between statements made on behalf of the centre and opinions and observations made in a personal capacity,’ it said. ‘For this reason, the Centre’s website has been temporarily taken offline.’

The VU said it would no longer accept financial support from China and was investigating whether the funding had compromised its scientific independence. Students have been informed of any changes to their tuition, a spokesman told NU.nl.

Education minister Robbert Dijkgraaf said in response to the revelations by NOS that ‘knowledge institutions must be alert to unwanted influences from other countries’.

The university was also criticised in 2020, along with the UvA in Amsterdam, for entering into an arrangement with Chinese tech giant Huawei, despite warnings that the company was implicated in spying for the country’s government.

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