May 4, 2020 / 7:09 PM / in 3 months

Congress Republicans accuse China of seeking to indoctrinate U.S. students

FILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags flutter near The Bund, before U.S. trade delegation meet their Chinese counterparts for talks in Shanghai, China July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of U.S. House of Representatives Republicans released a letter on Monday charging China with seeking to indoctrinate American students, the latest anti-China statement from congressional allies of President Donald Trump.

The ranking Republicans on seven House committees sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, asking for information and accusing China of providing funds to U.S. universities in an effort to spread Communist party propaganda and restrict research into COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

Trump, facing a more difficult re-election campaign as the coronavirus has claimed tens of thousands of American lives and ravaged the economy, has been ramping up his criticism of Beijing, as have many of his fellow Republicans in Congress.

Officials said Trump’s administration is considering retaliatory measures over the COVID-19 outbreak, which was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Washington and Beijing have traded increasingly bitter recriminations over the origin of the virus and the response to it.

The letter released on Monday was led by Representative Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight committee, and also signed by the top Republicans on the Education, Armed Services, Homeland Security, Science, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees.

China sends more students to study in the United States than any other country - nearly 370,000 in 2018, one third of the total pool of international students. They are an important source of revenue for U.S. colleges and universities.

U.S. higher education also gets millions of dollars from China every year via gifts and contracts.

China hawks in the U.S. Congress have long questioned whether Chinese students, professors, and researchers in the United States could pose a security threat.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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