The Cross Cultural Human Rights Centre, affiliated with VU Amsterdam, received funding from a Chinese university for research into human rights. This emerged yesterday from documents requested by NOS. The amounts involved ranged from 250,000 to 300,000 euros per year.
This led to an outcry because universities in China are closed linked to the political regime. Experts have serious doubts about the independence of the research centre.
The suspicions have arisen because staff members of the Amsterdam research centre have publicly defended the Chinese human rights policy. For instance, VU Amsterdam lecturer Peter Peverelli denied in an interview with student paper Ad Valvas that the regime is repressing the Uyghurs.
In a statement on its website VU Amsterdam says that doubt has “understandably” arisen about the independence of the research. The university calls “even ‘the appearance’ of dependence unacceptable”. The Chinese funding is therefore being stopped and paid back. The university also wants to investigate whether the independence of the research has been maintained on all fronts.
On Twitter, Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf says it is “sensible for VU Amsterdam to take action now.” In his view it is “important that knowledge institutions remain alert to risks of undesirable influence. Especially where human rights are concerned.”
Academic freedom is frequently a topic of conversation in partnerships with China. In that context, former Education Minister Ingrid Van Engelshoven advised higher education institutions last year to dissociate themselves from the Chinese Confucius Institutes.