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Tue 20 October 2020
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Academics at Tsinghua University in Beijing have been accused of fuelling China’s persecution of Uyghur Muslims by laying the intellectual foundations of the minority’s abuse

The University of Exeter has signed a partnership with a Chinese university, academics at which have been accused of fuelling the country’s brutal repression of Uyghur Muslims, Byline Times can reveal.

Exeter’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies has signed a collaboration agreement with Tsinghua University in Beijing to co-fund a new joint chair post. According to a press release, “the Exeter and Tsinghua Professor of Area Studies will be an expert in the anthropology, history, social sciences and cultures of the Middle East”.

The position is based in Exeter but will involve spending three to five months a year working at Tsinghua University.

Tsinghua, one of the country’s leading research universities, counts among its alumni the current Chinese President Xi Jinping and his predecessor Hu Jintao. Housed within the university is the Institute for Contemporary China Studies – a think tank that forms part of the School of Public Policy and Management.

Hu Angang, the director of the Institute, is an influential figure in Chinese politics and has seen at least seven of his policies adopted by the party-state. He is known, among other things, for co-authoring a 2011 paper entitled ‘Second Generation Ethnic Policy’, which advocated the benefits of a single race-state.

“Any nation’s long-term peace and stability is founded upon building a system with a unified race (a state-race) that strengthens the state-race identity and dilutes ethnic group identity,” Hu Angang wrote with co-author Hu Lianhe – a Chinese Government official and fellow Tsinghua academic.

Their ideas on ethnic homogeneity reportedly informed the state’s policy of imprisoning Uyghur Muslims in ‘re-education’ camps, as well as its policy of “ethnic mixing”, whereby members of the dominant Han ethnic group are housed alongside minorities and encouraged to marry them.

A new investigation found that China has built 380 internment camps in Xinjiang, with reports that millions of Uyghur Muslims have been detained and abused. Former detainees describe being tortured during interrogation, living in crowded cells and being subjected to a brutal daily regime of Chinese Communist Party indoctrination. 


Academic Propaganda

“Hu Angang has provided the ideological basis that justifies the internment and cultural genocide of the Uyghurs and Kazaks and other Turkic Muslim people in western China,” says China expert Charles Burton of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. “He has a terrific amount to answer for.”

Many in China agree. An open letter written by alumni of Tsinghua University called for him to be sacked, owing to the content of his academic work. The letter accused him of using “self-serving criteria” in his research to exaggerate claims of China’s greatness.

Indeed, he sparked controversy for repeatedly stating that China had overtaken the United States as a technological power and that Western-style governments were inferior to China’s one-party political system. The letter states that he espouses an exaggerated sense of national superiority and overt nationalism that both harms China’s foreign relations and misleads the public.

Such a partnership does not appear to be a good look for the University of Exeter – one of the UK’s leading universities – especially when these facts can be revealed by a simple Google search.

However, it is not the first time the institution has received funding from questionable donors. The Telegraph reported in 2017 that the University of Exeter was receiving support from Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qasimi, the ruler of Sharjah – one of the most conservative emirates in the United Arab Emirates.

Byline Times asked the University of Exeter whether it was aware that Tsinghua University academics arguably provided the intellectual foundations of Uyghur persecution and if it will it be continuing to pursue a partnership. It did not respond.


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