Host university of the Harvard Beijing Academy makes representations to program director over 'false accusations'
Published: Oct 15, 2021 01:50 AM
Overseas students perform at a cultural festival in Beijing Language and Culture University on May 19, 2019. Photo: CFP

Overseas students perform at a cultural festival in Beijing Language and Culture University on May 19, 2019. Photo: CFP

The Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) said on Thursday that it has made representations to Jennifer L. Liu, director of a Chinese language program at Harvard University, after she claimed the unwelcoming environment in BLCU was the reason why the program was moved from the host institution to Taipei, in the island of Taiwan. 

BLCU said on its official WeChat account that such claims were in gross discrepancy with the facts and the university is verifying with Liu.  

A Harvard Crimson report published on October 7 said the American university's decision to move the program to the city of Taipei was "due to a perceived lack of friendliness from BLCU."

The student newspaper said the program, founded in 2004 and also known as Harvard Beijing Academy, began to experience difficulties accessing the classrooms and dorms they needed, according to the program's director Jennifer L. Liu.

Liu also said the annual program typically hosted a small US Independence Day party on the fourth of July. But in 2019, BLCU notified the program that it could no longer hold the party. Liu suspects that the unwelcoming environment may be caused by a change in the Chinese government's attitude toward US institutions.

BLCU has established cooperation with 75 countries and regions in the world, covering more than 380 colleges, universities and education institutions. The university is widely recognized in international cooperation and enjoys good reputation, with nearly 7,000 international students from 140 countries and regions attending every year, the university said, vowing to continue to carry out friendly cooperation with foreign universities and colleges, and jointly promote the healthy development of international Chinese education and cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries.

In a statement shared with the Global Times on Thursday, Harry Pierre, Associate Director of Communications from the Division of Continuing Education of Harvard University, responded that the planned move has been considered for some time and reflects a wide array of operational factors. 

"The program's new location presents a different opportunity for our instructors and learners to broaden their educational experiences. We look forward to continuing to build what has become an excellent program for students," Pierre said.

Commenting on the decision, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, said on Wednesday's press briefing that "China always welcomes foreign students, attaches great importance to protecting their legitimate rights and interests, and actively responds to their legitimate concerns and appeals. We oppose any attempt to politicize people-to-people exchanges."

Also on Wednesday, responding to possible concerns from the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council that China's influence and soft power might be weakened by the international educational exchanges, the office's spokesperson, Ma Xiaoguang, said it is just a normal intercollegiate exchange program. 

"There are many cooperative projects between universities in the US, including Harvard University and those on the mainland, but only one of them cannot be carried out. There is nothing to be worried about and nothing to be blown out of proportion. Some politicians in the island are just guilty of hyping everything," Ma said. 

According to BLCU's official website, the Harvard Beijing Academy was founded in 2005 and is a first-class Chinese language learning program jointly established by Harvard University and BLCU. In the nine weeks of the program, students will improve their Chinese language ability and their understanding of the Chinese society and culture through social research, culture studies, Chinese language partners, lectures and visits to Chinese families.