Confucius Institute concerns at Saint Mary's University

A Tibetan student studying in Halifax is expressing concern about the Confucius Institute and its role at Saint Mary's University and in the city.

The organization teaches Mandarin and Chinese culture and has been banned from a number of universities

Rinzin Ngodup says he's concerned the Confucius Institute cuts out key parts of Chinese history. (CBC)

A Tibetan student studying in Halifax is expressing concern about the Confucius Institute and its role at Saint Mary's University and in the city.

The organization teaches Mandarin and Chinese culture and has been banned from a number of universities and school boards across Canada.

Margaret Murphy with Saint Mary's says they partnered with the Confucius Institute four years ago.

"Really, it's a cultural outreach to the community for people who want to learn about Mandarin, who want to learn about calligraphy and who do want to learn something about China,” she said.

Not only does Saint Mary's University proudly support the Confucius Institute, the university also speaks on the organization's behalf.

All of the books, materials and even the teachers come from the Chinese government.

To RinzinNgodup, it’s nothing more than a propaganda setup and he does not support the program.

He's concerned the Confucius Institute cuts out key parts of Chinese history, including the 1989 protests at Tiananmen Square and his homeland of Tibet.

As a human being, as pro-freedom of speech and living in a democratic nation, this is my duty.- Rinzin Ngodup

"In order to know the culture, you need to know the history too. So China history has a dark and wide history, so they are not mentioning about all of that history,” he said.

McMaster University and the University of Manitoba cut ties with the Confucius Institute over those same concerns.

Last week, the Toronto District school board followed suit and agreed to repay the Chinese government $225,000.

Saint Mary's University says it doesn't get money from the Confucius Institute, only providing the space for learning.

"They're only teaching people at their own request,” Murphy said. “It's purely voluntary, and they aren't part of their offerings but I would say come in, take a class or their workshops and indeed their work rooms are actually open to the public."

Ngodup says that’s not the point.

“As a human being, as pro-freedom of speech and living in a democratic nation, this is my duty,” he said. “Also, I am Tibetan, it is a great concern to me to tell the people what’s happening in China, how Tibetan people are treated in China.”

The Confucius Institute also operates in five metro Halifax schools.

It's offered as part of the curriculum at Halifax Grammar School, but the others consider it a "club" that runs at lunch hour and after school.

In every case, it is optional.