Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Security Minister Tom Tugendhat have led the charge in Cabinet to shut down the Confucius Institutes, which provide Chinese-language teachers to UK classrooms, due to unease about the extent to which the tentacles of the Chinese Communist Party could be reaching into classrooms.
Almost all British Government spending on Chinese-language teaching at schools is channelled through the 30 university-based institutes, and Confucius Classrooms, an offshoot, at almost 150 schools.
They include Wellington College in Crowthorne, Berkshire. They claim to promote Chinese culture, but critics say they are a vehicle for Beijing to spread propaganda and curtail free speech.
BAN: It is understood that Gillian Keegan ‘s Education Department has agreed – on condition that the teachers are replaced by staff from Taiwan
PROPAGANDA: Wellington College in Berkshire, where a Confucius classroom teaches students Chinese culture
Critics point to educational resources used by Confucius classrooms as evidence of propaganda.
READ MORE: Chinese ‘spy’ at the heart of Parliament
The male suspect, who is said to be in his late twenties, is thought to be linked to numerous Tory MPs – including security minister Tom Tugendhat (pictured)
One, called Chinese Buddy, carries videos featuring a cartoon of a dancing President Xi. Another popular learning tool is Chairman’s Bao, a news service for children that includes articles about tourists enjoying trips to the region where minority Uighurs are persecuted.
An intelligence source said: ‘We must get serious about the threat we face from the Chinese Communist Party – it’s systemic, wide-ranging and unrelenting. Taiwan is our ally, and we have to support them in any way we can – their teachers would do a fine job here at our universities and schools. We don’t want agents of Chinese intelligence services in our country and we certainly don’t want them working in our education system.’
The call came as Ministers announced a crackdown on former UK Armed Forces personnel who train Chinese pilots.
After the Ministry of Defence issued an alert revealing a number of former RAF, Royal Navy and Army pilots had been training the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force, a new offence within the National Security Act means that pilots risk being prosecuted for sharing sensitive information with foreign powers.
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘Anyone found to be acting against the UK’s interests by training our competitors’ militaries can expect to be brought to justice.’
Mr Tugendhat said: ‘In recent years we’ve seen attempts to harm our people, damage our economy and undermine our democracy.
‘This new act provides our world-class law enforcement and intelligence agencies with new and updated tools to tackle security challenges such as these – and hold those responsible to account.’
King told of Westminster ‘agent’
By Anna Mikhailova
The King was kept in the loop about the arrest of the alleged ‘Chinese spy’ in Westminster.
In a sign of how seriously the authorities treated the suspected security breach, King Charles received a briefing about the case while it was shrouded in secrecy.
Two men, including a parliamentary researcher with links to several senior Tory MPs, were arrested in March on suspicion of spying for China. King Charles was one of a very small group who had knowledge of the arrests before they became public knowledge last weekend.
It is understood he was informed as part of his national security briefings. A source said: ‘Only about ten people knew the details and one of them was the King.’
It is unclear if Charles was told before his Coronation in May, which was attended by China’s Vice-President Han Zheng.
The former aide has strongly denied spying for China.
A source said: ‘The King is of course kept abreast of government matters in the same manner as the late Queen.’