Beijing: A charity that gave £3.7 million ($A6.6 million) to Cambridge University to endow a professorship for Chinese development studies is run by members of the family of the country’s former prime minister, Wen Jiabao, according to a well-placed source in Beijing.
The donation from the Chong Hua Foundation in January 2012 raises serious questions over whether Beijing is buying influence at one of Britain’s most important universities, with one academic accusing it of allowing the Chinese government “to appoint a professor at Cambridge”.
Cambridge University had previously denied that Chong Hua had links to the Chinese government, but information recently received by The Telegraph indicates that the foundation is controlled by Wen Ruchun, the daughter of China’s former prime minister.
Ms Wen is a senior member of one of China’s most powerful “Red Families”, which is estimated to have amassed $US2.3 billion ($2.45 billion) through its access to China’s economy and banking system since the 1980s.
She holds a senior position at the Chinese government agency responsible for regulating the country’s vast foreign exchange reserves and is a former student of Professor Peter Nolan, the Cambridge academic who was the inaugural appointee to the Chong Hua chair.
The news of the anonymous donation unsettled several academics in Cambridge. However, the university said it had scrutinised the donation and concluded there was “no link between this private foundation and the Chinese government”.
There was further disquiet last Tuesday night after a Beijing entrepreneur said in a previously unpublished interview with a Western journalist that Chong Hua was indeed Ms Wen’s charity.
The information came from Vivien Wang, the founder of Etonkids, a kindergarten chain, who said she had gifted a block of shares to Ms Wen, a potentially powerful political patron in Beijing’s fiercely competitive business world.
“We gave the shares to her charity organisation,” Ms Wang said of the 29 per cent stake, valued at £4.3 million in 2008. “The charity Chong Hua holds the shares.”
Cambridge continues to deny that Chong Hua has links to the Chinese government and confirms only that it is registered to a trust in Bermuda.
A spokesman said: “The donation was fully verified and approved by the University of Cambridge Advisory Committee on Benefactions. No more details will be released as the donors have requested complete anonymity.”
Full article: Is China buying influence at Cambridge University? (Sidney Morning Herald)