Varma Beijing, May 30 : China’s Confucius Institute, commonly known as Hanban and projecting the country’s soft power abroad, has refuted online reports that all of its 109 branches in the US were shut down, saying all institutes are functioning “normally”. “All 109 Confucius Institutes in the US are operating normally, and not a single institute has been shut down,” official media reported here, quoting a Hanban statement.Also Read - China Defends Visa Curbs Against Stranded Indians, Says 'Appropriate' to Combat COVID-19

The statement slammed an article allegedly posted by WeChat account “Jinwen365” as “completely fabricated and wrong.” China has about 500 Confucius institutes all around the world which focus on Chinese language teaching and culture. The institutes have come under criticism in the US and western countries for restricting academic freedom and advancing China’s political policy like Taiwan being part of China. (ALSO READ: Though largely unknown, Donald Trump finds fans in China ) Also Read - Russia Says It’s In Sync with United State, China, Pakistan on Taliban | Details Here

An accusatory article, which has been reposted by the official WeChat accounts of several influential individuals last week, also noted that the institute has been suffering from huge financial losses caused by lack of transparency in its operations and financial management, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Also Read - China Evergrande: What Led To Debt Crisis and Why Thursday Is Crucial

Deriving its name from the renowned Chinese educator and philosopher Confucius, who lived from 551 BC to 479 BC, the Confucius Institutes are non-profit institutions affiliated with China’s Ministry of Education. Their mission is primarily to promote Chinese language and culture at schools and universities throughout the world projecting China’s soft power. China had opened 500 Confucius Institutes and 1,000 Confucius classrooms in 135 countries as of the end of 2015, according to the latest annual development report released by Hanban.

The headquarters had spent USD 310 million on all Confucius Institutes and classrooms worldwide last year, including USD 228 million on operational funds. A total of 1.9 million people are studying Chinese language and culture in 500 Confucius Institutes and 1,000 Confucius classrooms in 134 countries, Wang Yongli, deputy chief of Hanban, had said last year.