Amsterdam university VU ends controversial human rights center funded by China
The Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam will close the Cross Cultural Human Rights Center, a controversial human rights research hub funded by China. A report by broadcaster NOS released details about the center's financing in January, a collaboration which continued despite China's treatment of the Uyghurs and Tibetans there.
The VU commissioned a committee to investigate the center. According to the committee, there are no indications that the opinions of individual researchers were bought and paid for, or that self-censorship took place under pressure from Chinese financiers. At the same time, there was not enough "openness and transparency" about where the money for the center originated. The VU itself said it was "insufficiently alert."
A researcher from the center previously stated that the plight of the Uyghur Muslim minority in China is not particularly bad. The VU said that this determination falls under the researcher's freedom of expression, but the university does not agree with it. "The whitewashing or even denial of the situation of the Uyghur Muslims is extremely inappropriate and does not in any way contribute positively to improving the plight of this population group," said Rector Magnificus Jeroen Geurts.
The VU also praised the role of the NOS. The journalists' revelations have "contributed to accelerated awareness of the risks surrounding the unilateral financing of the center." The university also confirmed that "the value of an independent and free press, which has served us in various areas of society, in politics but certainly also within science holds up a mirror."
Reporting by ANP