Free Tibet challenges China's propaganda in schools

30th March 2015

China pays for "massive expansion" in teaching about China

Free Tibet has launched a major new campaign to make sure children are taught the truth about China and Tibet. The Hosting a Dragon campaign focuses on Confucius Classrooms - the Chinese government's programme of language teaching that has now reached into more than 600 schools around the world. Confucius Classrooms are part of the highly controversial Confucius Institutes programme, which places centres for teaching Chinese language and culture in universities and schools on every continent. A Chinese government agency called Hanban provides finance, resources and even teachers from China to schools. In return, it opens a Confucius Classroom inside the school, where an exclusively positive picture of China is painted and "Hanban teachers" are instructed to reflect the Chinese government's position on Tibet.

Chinese propaganda

In 2009, a senior Chinese official described the Confucius programme as “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up”. While the Classrooms' main function is to provide Chinese language teaching to school pupils, the project also aims to promote teaching about China in other subjects and to foster "mutual understanding" and "friendship" abroad. The director and chairperson of Hanban are both very senior members of the Chinese Communist Party. China's government does not want children abroad to learn about its illegal occupation and repression in Tibet, its abuse of human rights and its steadfast opposition to democracy and human rights. It even arranges and provides money for visits to China for pupils and staff, where they are taken on stage-managed trips to tourist sites and happy schools.

China buys friends

An investigation by Free Tibet in the United Kingdom has found that Hanban is providing $10,000 per year each to schools - but only after it has approved their plans and reports. There are now around 100 Hanban teachers in the UK. Each is recruited and politically-vetted in Beijing and their salaries are paid by Hanban. As Chinese citizens, they are not free to talk about issues such as Tibet, Hong Kong or democracy and Hanban's head has made clear that she expects them to respond to any questions from students with answers that the Communist party would approve. Free Tibet has also learned that the decision to open the Classrooms and accept China's money is very rarely discussed by councils or school governors - despite China's government being unelected and guilty of widesread repression and human rights abuse.

Hosting a Dragon

It is essential that school students learn the truth about China and Tibet. Free Tibet is contacting all 95 schools in the UK which host Confucius Classrooms to warn them of the risks to a balanced education that the Classrooms pose. We are seeking their guarantees that pupils are not receiving a biased education and offering them resources to ensure that students learn the truth about China and Tibet. Our Hosting a Dragon campaign also includes contacting local councils and politicians to demand that the Confucius Classroom programme is properly monitored and that it is controlled by our governments, not China's.

Take action

small_action4.jpg Our campaign has already received national media coverage in the UK and hundreds of letters will be sent to headteachers, councillors and governors in the next few weeks. We are already talking to political representatives in the UK and you can help by signing our new petition to the education ministers of Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales. If you aren't based in the UK, you can contact Hanban - the Chinese government agency administering the programme - directly, to warn them that people outside China are aware of their propaganda programme and will demand Confucius Classrooms be closed down if they are used to spread propaganda and apply pressure to schools and councils.