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Ban on Chinese institutes at UK universities drawn up after Rishi Sunak's pledge to scrap them
The Prime Minister had labelled China the 'largest threat to Britain and the world’s security and prosperity this century'
Controversial Confucius Institutes at British universities were set up to deliver culture and language classes to international students
A ban on controversial Confucius Institutes at British universities is being rapidly drawn up by officials to honour Rishi Sunak’s election campaign pledge, The Telegraph understands.
The Prime Minister announced during the summer leadership campaign that he would shut down the 30 Chinese culture institutes as he labelled China the “largest threat to Britain and the world’s security and prosperity this century.”
The institutes, which are based at universities across the UK, were set up to deliver culture and language classes to international students. However, they have been accused of being a front for the Chinese Communist Party to clamp down on critical views on China.
Liz Truss told MPs prior to her departure this month that she had ordered preparations to be made for a consultation on banning the institutes, The Telegraph has learnt.
Now, officials are understood to be continuing that work following Mr Sunak’s appointment as Prime Minister as he faces immediate pressure from Conservative China hawks.
'It will send a strong message'
Sir Iain Duncan-Smith, former Conservative Party leader, said: “We should have done it [banned the institutes] by now. Let’s act now and act strongly.”
Robert Clark, director of defence and security at Civitas, a think tank, said: “Rishi Sunak has put himself in a corner where he has to be more forceful on China.
“It will send a strong message that we’ll no longer permit Chinese malign operations and interference in British civil society in higher education.”
Dr Alan Mendoza, executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, the pro-democracy think tank, said the Prime Minister “must keep to his promise and commit to removing these controversial and potentially dangerous organisations from Britain”.
The institutes have been banned in other countries such as Sweden. The US has clamped down on Confucius Institutes by restricting funding to any university that hosts them.
The Government could grant itself the power to ban the institutes via amendments to bills going through parliament including Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill and the National Security Bill.
Some MPs have suggested that the Government could work with other countries with significant numbers of Mandarin speakers, such as Taiwan, to develop new language and cultural programmes.
During the leadership campaign, Mr Sunak also pledged to stand up to China's "technological aggression" by amending the Higher Education Bill to force British universities to disclose any foreign funding partnerships of more than £50,000.
He committed to reviewing all UK-Chinese research partnerships at risk of being used by China to advance technology development or have military applications.
Labelling China a threat 'will provoke a retaliation'
Liz Truss was preparing to formally designate China a "threat" to the UK for the first time before she left Downing Street. An update to Boris Johnson's 2021 Integrated Review would upgrade the country from a "systemic competitor".
Academics have warned that officially labelling China a “threat” will provoke a retaliation.