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U.S. State Department clarifies directive on Confucius Institutes

By Victoria Nuland  (Xinhua)

10:41, May 25, 2012

WASHINGTON, May 24 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Department of State spokesperson Victoria Nuland said on Thursday the department is going to sort out the mess-up in the visa processing issue related to Confucius Institutes in the United States, to which the department referred in a recent directive to U.S. universities.

NOBODY SHALL LEAVE

Nuland said in a daily briefing on Thursday that the department is going to "do our best to fix this without having anybody have to leave."

The directive sent by the U.S. Department of State on May 17 to U.S. universities which sponsor Confucius Institutes states that any academics at university-based institutes who are teaching at the primary and secondary-school levels (K-12) are violating the terms of their visas and expected to return China at the end of the current academic school year in June to apply for appropriate visas.

Nuland said the problems referred in the directive is "not about the Confucius Institutes themselves," but "simply about whether the right visa status was applied in these cases."

Nuland explained that there are two categories of J-1 education visa, one kind for teachers in kindergarten through high school while another kind for professors and scholars at university level, where "some muddling and messing up" occurred in the processing.

She said some folks who were participating and teaching in programs that were K-12 level were given university-style J-1 visas.

"Nobody's going to have to leave the country. It's all going to get cleared up," said her.

CONFUCIUS INSTITUTE NOT TARGETED

Nuland denied that the directive is targeting Confucius Institutes in the United States, and reiterated the importance of the people-to-people understanding between the United State and China.

"The U.S. greatly values its people-to-people exchange with China," she stressed, "this was one of the centerpieces of the Secretary's (Hillary Clinton) participation in the Strategic and Economic Dialogue."

But Nuland did not speak to why the mess-up occurred nor why the J-1 visas related issues came up now, given that the first Confucius Institute in the country was launched in the University of Maryland back to 2004.

The State Department also said in the directive that it has determined that the Confucius Institutes must obtain separate American accreditation in order to continue to accept foreign scholars and professors as teachers.

But Nuland did not refer to this issue during her briefing.

A report by the U.S. Chronicle of Higher Education said it is unclear what prompted the State Department to issue such a policy statement, as Confucius Institutes have been on American campuses for nearly a decade.

The magazine reported on Wednesday that the State Department " appears to be backpedaling from its insistence in the memorandum" issued last week.

A department official, who spoke with the magazine on the condition of not being named, called this section of the policy statement "confusing" and said it would be redrafted to clarify the issue, the magazine reported on Wednesday.

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