UCD President Andrew Deeks last month met the Chinese vice minister for Education Hao Ping in China, and reportedly discussed “the progress of the construction project” on the UCD campus.
The UCD Confucius Centre is currently being built beside the Engineering building and was due to be completed by September, and then furnished by April 2017. But the project is still running at least “six months” behind schedule a source in UCD divulged.
In December President Deeks travelled to China where he met the Chinese vice minister for Education Hao Ping, and the deputy director of Hanban (the Confucius Institute Headquarters) Mr Ma Jianfie. They reportedly discussed “the progress of the construction project of the [UCD] Model Confucius Institute Building and other issues”.
The new building became embroiled in controversy when the Tribune and the Irish Times revealed in November that the project had gone over budget by €3 million, originally planned to cost €7.4 million the project will now come to €10.2 m.
Documents obtained by the Tribune under the Freedom of Information (FOI) act revealed UCD President Deeks had asked the Irish government for an additional €2.5 m to help cover the overrun and “avoid a diplomatic incident” with China if the project collapsed.
The Department of Education refused to grant any additional funding, and the Chinese government also stated they would not be contributing any extra funding towards the Confucius Centre in Belfield.
UCD had no option but to service the €3 million overrun in the Centre’s costs from their own budget. It is understood that the money will come in part from the large budget that had been allocated towards the running costs of the Confucius Centre, based on sources from UCD’s internal finance committee.
However, it now appears relations between the UCD President and the top Chinese political officials have recovered after the tense stand-off over the Centre’s funding and the delays in the project.
In December President Deeks also attended the 11th Confucius Institute Conference in China. The Conference had representatives from Chinese universities and figures from universities with Confucius Institutes around the world.
The UCD President was presented with the “Medal of the 2016 Individual Performance Excellence Award” by Liu Yandong, for his work as chair of the UCD Confucius Institute.
Madame Liu Yandong is the vice-premier of the People’s Republic of China, and a member of the Chinese Communist Party ‘Politburo’, the key political body of the party. Politically the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Politburo is a controversial body.
The Human Rights Watch world report for 2015 found China under the Communist Party “systematically curtails a wide range of fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, association, assembly, and religion”.
The report asserted that “senior Chinese leaders, perceiving a threat to their power, now explicitly reject the universality of human rights, characterizing these ideas as ‘foreign infiltration’, and penalizing those who promote them. Freedoms of expression and religion, already limited, were hit particularly hard in 2015 by several restrictive new measures”.
The report also outlined that in January 2015, “Education Minister Yuan Guiren told universities to ban teaching materials that promote Western values and censor speech constituting ‘attack and slander against the Party’.”
In January 2015, “Education Minister Yuan Guiren told universities to ban teaching materials that promote Western values”.
Confucius Institutes (CI) have been the targets of academic criticism over the direct links the CIs based on college campuses maintain to the Chinese ministry of education, and the CI Headquarters in China.
The Tribune can reveal the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) has build a database of “major teaching materials and resources” for their Institutes. This resource includes 424 “volumes of cultural reading materials” according to the 2015 annual report published by the Confucius Institutes Headquarters.
The Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) has build a database of “major teaching materials and resources” for their Institutes.
China and the CCP have long faced international criticism for the suppression of freedom of speech and political association, and the oppression of independence movements in regions such as Tibet.
The UCD new Confucius Centre will be the first-purpose built building for a Confucius Institute in the world, and is receiving €3 million in direct funding from the Chinese government.
President Andrew Deeks also gave a speech titled “Expanding the Platform of Cooperation between Chinese and Overseas Partners” at the Confucius Institute Conference.
In December the Council of the UCD Students’ Union discussed the overrun in cost of the Confucius Centre on campus. The SU Council didn’t vote to take a decision or policy on the issue, but assented to President Conor Viscardi’s proposal that he would attempt to confirm where the €3 million in additional funding for the project would be coming from within the university budget.
Jack Power | Editor