From Left, UM System President Mun Choi and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley.

Choi, left, says an audit found no evidence to support the concerns of Sen. Josh Hawley, about espionage by the Confucius Institute.

KANSAS CITY — University of Missouri System President Mun Choi gave no indication that MU is rushing to cut ties with the Confucius Institute despite charges from U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, that the center is engaged in espionage.

During a press conference after the public session of the UM Board of Curators meeting Thursday, Choi said an audit of the institute earlier this year “found that they were living up to their mission, found no issues of barriers to academic freedom — which was one of the concerns raised by the senator — or any evidence of academic espionage.

“Our approach with this program as well as any other program that we operate or partner with is to trust but verify,” Choi said.

The Confucius Institute, funded by the Chinese Ministry of Education, provides education and training in Chinese language and culture. Choi said it “creates very important cultural exchanges” between the scholars who are part of the institute and members of the university and community in Columbia.

In a letter to MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright on July 24, Hawley accused the institute of engaging in communist propaganda, threatening academic freedom and endangering national defense. At the time, MU spokesperson Christian Basi said the university was aware of concerns and would review its contract with the institute when it expires in 2021.

The FBI has investigated the institute, and some universities have closed their Confucius Institutes in the past year. There are more than 100 of the institutes at U.S. universities and 500 worldwide.

  • State government reporter, spring 2020 Studying investigative journalism Reach me at or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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