When you think of UTSA, you don't picture a den of Chinese spies, but U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) says that's what is happening at an institute at UTSA which is connected to the Chinese government, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
In a letter to UTSA President Dr. Taylor Eighmy, Cuellar says the Confucius Institute at UTSA, as well as similar institutes at Texas A&M and UT Dallas, are covers for 'intelligence collection and political activity.'
He went so far as to warn that some Confucius Institutes on campuses are under investigation by the FBI.
UTSA's web site says the Confucius Institute is a place that provides Chinese language education, as well as classes in Chinese art and history.
But Cuellar says that's not its real mission.
"Confucius Institutes and other Chinese government supported academic organizations, such as the China-United States Exchange Foundation, are intended to spread China's political agenda, suppress academic debate, and steal vital academic research," he wrote.
Cuellar says the Institutes are a 'threat to democracy' and are operated by the Chinese government with a goal to '"win support for China's political agenda, accumulate influence overseas and gather key information."
He says several leading U.S. institutions, including the University of Texas at Austin, have severed their ties to the Confucius Institute.
"In light of China's subversive behavior and malicious intent to suppress our American values of free expression, speech and debate, we respectfully and strongly urge you to consider terminating your Confucius Institute and other agreements with Chinese government supported organizations," the letter concludes.
UTSA released a statement on the controversy
:“The Confucius Institute at UTSA was established in 2009 to promote Chinese language training, lectures and workshops, and Chinese cultures and arts. The institute is one of many programs that help prepare our students to be world-ready. It is under full control of professors and officials from UTSA. We value the perspectives of the congressmen and will do our due diligence in evaluating their concerns.”