Senate passes bills to prevent foreign influence at UW | Wisconsin News

By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The state Senate on Tuesday passed three Republican-backed bills aimed at preventing Chinese spies from infiltrating University of Wisconsin campuses, moves opponents have called racist and targeting a non-existent problem.

Republican lawmakers countered that the measures were necessary to provide another layer of protection against Chinese spies infiltrating state universities.

“We’re not doing this because we hate the Chinese,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Alberta Darling. “We are doing this to confront the Chinese Liberation Army.”

Republican Senator Roger Roth, sponsor of the bill, said universities are an “easy target” for China as it seeks to exploit openness on campuses to steal intellectual property and research and advance its own goals.

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The Democratic opponent argued that the bills were xenophobic, attempting to get the university to do the screening that falls to federal authorities and would not stop Chinese spies from entering the country.

“It’s a waste of time,” said Democratic Senator Jon Erpenbach. He said the bills “play on the darkest fears.”

UW system manager Jeff Buhrandt said in testimony provided to a Senate committee that the university is already taking steps to curb foreign influence on campuses. He argued that the proposals add binding regulations on the UW and that any additional regulations should come from the federal government.

All three bills passed to the party line, with all Republicans in favor and Democrats against.

A bill would prevent schools in the UW system from admitting or employing members of China’s armed forces known as the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

Another proposal would prohibit any foreign mission from China from being established or recognized at a UW school. It would also prevent the UW system from becoming part of any Communist Chinese recruiting or propaganda programs and would require the system to report any funding it received from foreign missions from China.

A third bill would create new disclosure requirements for UW institutions and employees regarding research, contracts and gifts involving foreign governments, companies and individuals.

Bills are now heading to the Assembly. If passed there, they would need to be signed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers before becoming law.

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