200 UK academics investigated for weapons links to China . . .
On Monday, The Times newspaper reported that approximately 200 researchers in the U.K. from more than a dozen universities will be investigated for allegedly helping the Chinese government develop weapons of mass destruction. The academics in question are suspected of unknowingly transferring research in military technology – including missile designs, cyberweapons, and aircraft – by partnering with Chinese military-linked organizations and universities. Such acts effectively breach the U.K.’s Export Control Order 2008, which specifies that any exporter of military technology or goods in the U.K. must have a licence to export or transfer that information. If found guilty, the academics could spend up to 10 years in jail.
University of Manchester ends partnership with Chinese firm . . .
Security services in the U.K. are mostly concerned that this research could be used in the repression of China’s Uyghur Muslim minority. Last week, the University of Manchester announced that it was suspending a research project with a Chinese firm over potential links to Uyghur persecution. The university had a partnership with China Electronics Technology Group, which has now been accused of being “one of the main architects of the Chinese government’s surveillance state in Xinjiang” and of playing a role in “the identity-based persecution of more than one million people, predominantly Uyghur Muslims.” The University of Manchester said it had no prior knowledge of this connection and immediately terminated the partnership upon learning about it.
Not an isolated case . . .
The U.K. is not the first country to question its academic partnerships with China – the U.S., Australia, and others have recently raised similar concerns. Last month, the U.S. arrested a professor for allegedly failing to disclose his ties to China. In December, Australia passed its Foreign Relations Bill, which analysts consider to be at least partly aimed at regulating China-Australia academic collaborations. Overall, an increasing number of countries are slowly beginning to regulate their academic collaborations with China. The implications – for the academic community, for domestic security, and bilateral relations – are yet to be seen.