Post-Tribune | Aug 11, 2021 at 3:32 PM

Attorney General Todd Rokita, without mentioning any evidence, has started a civil probe into the Confucius Institute at Valparaiso University, saying it is an propaganda arm of the Chinese Communist Party. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) (Darron Cummings/AP) Attorney General Todd Rokita is investigating faith-based Valparaiso University’s involvement with the Confucius Institute calling it an alleged “propaganda arm” of the Chinese Communist Party. Although he didn’t point to specific evidence, Rokita, a Republican who grew up in Munster, said in a release he launched a civil probe looking into possible violations of the Higher Education Act of 1965 or Indiana’s Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. Advertisement “The investigation is aimed at identifying and getting to the bottom of the true intent of any relationships between Valparaiso University’s programming and the Chinese Communist Party,” the release stated. Valparaiso University issued a statement saying it “does not and would not support any kind of endeavor that furthers or promotes communist ideology as doing so would conflict with its Christian mission and purpose and its strong support of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that protects the freedom of speech and religion.” Advertisement The university said its association with the Confucius Institute focuses on music and the Chinese language. [Most read] Praise for slain Chicago police Officer Ella French pours in as her death continues to roil city » Rokita is asking VU to provide information regarding the university’s compliance with federal reporting standards for funding received to operate the Confucius Institute. “Our investigation seeks to uncover whether the Chinese government has attempted to exert political influence and manipulate the attitudes and beliefs of Hoosiers through their Confucius Institutes. Our office will use every tool at our disposal to protect Hoosiers and put liberty into action,” Rokita said. Several colleges and universities have opened Confucius Institutes in the past 20 years. VU’s partnership began in 2008 when VU officials said the goals were to exchange culture, business, government, education and art between Northwest Indiana and the Zhejiang province in China. It was the 39th college campus to open a Confucius Institute in the U.S. VU also established a study abroad program in Hangzhou in 1990. Under the Trump administration, criticism and wariness of the network of Confucius Institutes in U.S. universities ramped up. Some universities, including Indiana University, dropped ties with the Chinese nonprofit group that’s affiliated with the Ministry of Education of China. [Most read] Daily horoscope for August 11, 2021 » Rokita, who aligns himself politically with Trump, said the Confucius Institutes were manipulating students and adults into a communist ideology. In 2008, the Confucius Institute sponsored a delegation of 12 Valparaiso local business and civic leaders on a trip to Zhejiang Province. Among those who went were Rex Richards, president of the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce. Richards said Wednesday his Chinese hosts were professional and diplomatic. “I did not experience any manipulation,” he said. Richards called the trip enlightening and educational. “China is a major world power and it’s most important to become familiar with them, as it is with any other major world powers such as India, Russia, Japan, United Kingdom, France and Germany,” he said. In 2013, the Confucius Institute picked the now-closed Gary Wirt-Emerson School of Visual and Performing Arts as the home of its first high school music class. In 2012, about 25 Wirt-Emerson orchestra students performed across China as part of a cultural outreach effort. Advertisement Carole Carlson is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune. Advertisement