Sunday July 18 2021, 12.01am, The Sunday Times
Glasgow University is being urged to review its partnership with a Chinese college said to be a recruiting ground for a state-owned military contractor linked to the persecution of ethnic minorities.
Human Rights Watch said the university’s deal with the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC), which offers students a chance to study in China and Scotland, is “troubling” amid warnings that graduates can go on to work for the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC).
The defence conglomerate has been blacklisted by the US government for human rights violations against Uighurs, Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups in China’s Xinjiang province. Last week one of its subsidiaries, the China Academy of Electronics and Information Technology (CAEIT), was added to a list of entities that are banned from trading with the US.
“It is troubling that a UK university is operating a joint college with a university supervised by a major state-owned military contractor deeply implicated in mass surveillance in China,” Maya Wang, from Human Rights Watch, said. “I think we urgently need governments around the world to empower universities to review these forms of co-operation . . . to ensure that universities are not contributing to human rights abuses.”
Glasgow University is believed to raise almost one third of its tuition fees from Chinese students, the highest proportion of any leading UK university. In 2016 it named UESTC as a “priority partner” under a deal that established a campus in Chengdu for Chinese students to gain engineering degrees. Students are also encouraged to study in Scotland. There are an estimated 1,500 Chinese students at Glasgow.
Amnesty International ihas called for UK organisations to consider their links with China. The charity gathered testimony from more than 50 former detainees of camps in Xinjiang, where an estimated one million predominantly Muslim ethnic minority people are being detained. The claims have been denied by the Chinese government.
Radomir Tylecote, from Civitas, a think tank, said US sanctions on China’s military-linked and surveillance state-linked conglomerates was “heartening” but noted the UK government’s failure to follow suit. “As our research showed, UESTC is under US sanctions and runs joint military laboratories with China’s nuclear warhead manufacturer, the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics,” Tylecote said.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has warned CETC “has been expanding its overseas presence at the same time as its technologies enable human rights abuses in Xinjiang”.
Glasgow University said it was proud of its partnerships with “high-quality institutions across the globe”, and the opportunities provided for students and staff. “All our activities are undertaken with due regard to UK government advice and regulations. In addition, we are committed to upholding academic freedom in all our collaborations.”