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Pompeo Accuses 2 American Universities of Caving to Chinese Communist Party

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday accused U.S. universities of caving to Chinese pressure to blunt or bar criticism of the Chinese Communist Party.

Pompeo took aim at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Washington, saying that they refused to address the Trump administration’s concerns about China’s attempts to influence students and academics.

He specifically called out the president of MIT and a senior official at the University of Washington for ignoring the matter. Both universities swiftly denied the charges.

Pompeo defended the Trump administration’s tough stance on China in remarks at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“Americans must know how the CCP is poisoning the well of our higher education for its own ends, and how those actions degrade our freedoms and our national security. If we don’t educate ourselves, we’ll get schooled by Beijing,” he said.

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“They know that left-leaning college campuses are rife with anti-Americanism, and present easy target audiences for their anti-American messaging.”

Pompeo has been a champion of the administration’s hard-line approach to China, and he has made similar remarks before.

His comments on Wednesday accused the two American university officials of being complicit in Chinese malfeasance.

Pompeo said he had initially wanted to give his Georgia Tech speech at MIT, but the president of the prestigious school, Rafael Reif, had turned him down for fear of offending Beijing.

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“MIT wasn’t interested in having me give this speech on their campus,” Pompeo said. “President Rafael Reif implied that my arguments might insult their ethnic Chinese students and professors.”

MIT spokeswoman Kimberly Allen rejected Pompeo’s assertion, saying the university declined to host the speech because of coronavirus restrictions. She said several other prospective high-level events had also been rejected.

Reif “had real concerns that a high-level visit might not only draw crowds but suggest to students that MIT was not taking its own rules seriously,” she said.

“President Reif verbally conveyed MIT’s decision — based on a commitment to the health of our students and our surrounding community — with his deep regrets.”

Pompeo also criticized Sarah Castro, the University of Washington’s director of federal relations, for allegedly refusing to help Vera Zhou, a Chinese student who had been detained in China in 2017, so as not to jeopardize a “multimillion-dollar deal” between the university and Beijing.

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“Now, thank God, Vera was eventually released, and returned to the U.S,” Pompeo said of the student. “But no thanks to the University of Washington, and no thanks to its deal with China.”

A statement from university spokesman Victor Balta called Pompeo’s remarks a “shameful” and “outrageous.”

“That the Secretary of State would think a university has more power in this situation than the United States government is bizarre,” he said. “That he would single out a staff member by name is unbecoming of the office and his statement is flatly wrong.”

The university has no record of contact from the State Department regarding any negotiation with China, Balta said, and officials don’t know what “multimillion-dollar deal” Pompeo was referring to. He added that, as of this quarter, Zhou is again enrolled at the university.


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