Cambridge Students’ Union has been criticised for advertising a company with strong ties to the Chinese government.

PhD fellowships with the Chinese tech giant Huawei were being advertised on their Facebook page in a now deleted post.

The post, published on 18th March, included a QR code with a link to the page where PhD students could submit their applications and boasted up to £50,000 in funding available for students majoring in computer science or similar subjects.

The SU were quick to take down the post after it received critical comments.

The tech giant has been embroiled in controversy because of its close relationship with the Chinese government.

In 2020, the UK government decided to strip Britain’s 5G network of Huawei equipment by 2027 over security concerns, following similar action by the US and Australia.

The company is also said to be involved in the surveillance of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, China, using their technology to help local police and government tighten their security infrastructure.

The company has also been accused of participating in espionage through back doors in its networks, and benefitting from forced labour.

One student told Varsity: “Huawei are deeply involved in the Chinese state’s human rights violations, including the genocide against Uyghur people being carried out in Xinjiang. Huawei should not be promoted by the University, the SU, colleges, or anyone within the University.”

This is not the first time that the SU’s sponsorships have caused controversy.


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Last November, they U-turned on their partnership with Qatar Airways Student Club after critics pointed out that two British women were removed from a Qatar Airways flight and forcibly strip-searched by government authorities in October 2020.

The SU also faced criticism last year for its paid partnership with a student letting company that had been accused of exploiting students.

A spokesperson for the SU said: “Cambridge SU is committed to the highest ethical standards from our advertising partnerships, which we use to fund our support and services for students. On this occasion we fell short and posted an advert we should not have, and we want to apologise for that.

“Earlier this year we began a process of reviewing our advertising policy and will now be further tightening our procedures to ensure that this does not happen again. We have worked to oppose partnerships between the collegiate University and Huawei in response to concerns raised about the company’s human rights record, which we take extremely seriously, and will continue to do so.”