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01/09/2023 | Leading German university suspends Chinese state-funded researchers

Joseph Fitsanakis

ONE OF GERMANY’S LEADING universities has suspended researchers funded by the Chinese government, citing concerns about academic freedom and industrial espionage.

 

The Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU) announced the suspension of Chinese government-funded researchers in June of this year. In announcing the measure, the university stated that the move was designed to protect academic freedom and freedom of expression among its faculty and staff. Earlier this week, however, German media reported the contents of an internal FAU email, which expressed concerns that the Chinese state could be utilizing government-funded researches as spies.

Founded in Bavaria in 1743, FAU is among Germany’s leading universities. On June 1, it became the first university in Germany to suspend researchers funded by the China Scholarship Council (CSC). The CSC is an outreach unit of the Chinese Ministry of Education, which funds the work of Chinese researchers in foreign universities, while also providing scholarships to foreign citizens who apply to study in China. In January 2023, Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter reported that, in order to become recipients of CSC scholarships, Chinese citizens were required to pledge “support [to] the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party […] and to have a correct world view, outlook on life, and values system”.

On June 1, the FAU leadership announced that the CSC funding methods conflicted with Germany’s Basic Law (the country’s Constitution). Furthermore, according to the FAU leadership, the CSC funding methods violated the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression for its faculty, as practiced in Germany. On Saturday it was reported that, according to an internal FAU email, university officials also expressed concerns that the Chinese state could use CSC researchers to spy on FAU scientific and industrial research, and to compromise FAU’s data security and intellectual property practices.

FAU’s decision was reportedly met with support by Germany’s Minister for Education, Bettina Stark-Watzinger, who said that German universities and research establishments have “a responsibility to safeguard themselves against espionage activities conduced by students receiving scholarships from the Chinese government”. It is also reported that other universities in Germany and elsewhere in Western Europe are considering following FAU in suspending CSC-funded Chinese researchers.

Intelnews.org (Estados Unidos)

 



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