A cluster of four prestigious private schools in New York City, collectively known as the Basis Independent Schools (BIS) district, has raised eyebrows due to its ownership ties to an individual identified as a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
This district, encompassing campuses in Manhattan and Brooklyn, boasts annual tuition fees reaching up to $44,500 and prides itself on producing graduates who gain admission to esteemed colleges worldwide.
The BIS district comprises a Pre-Kindergarten to Second Grade school in downtown Brooklyn, a Pre-K to Fifth Grade school in the Upper West Side, a Third Grade to Twelfth Grade school in Red Hook, Brooklyn and a Sixth Grade to Twelfth Grade school in Chelsea.
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Notably, the Red Hook campus received recognition from Niche as one of the nation’s top college preparatory schools. However, in 2019, the district changed ownership. It was acquired by the Spring Education Group (SEG), which falls under the Hong Kong-based Primavera Capital Group (PCG).
Fred Zuliu Hu, a Harvard-educated former Goldman Sachs banker and adviser to prominent American universities, serves as the chairman and CEO of PCG. He has also been identified as a senior member of the CCP.
Both PCG and SEG have vehemently denied Hu’s affiliation with the CCP. PCG asserts that Hu “is not a member of the CCP or any other political party.” They also emphasized that “he was not a CCP member during his tenure at Goldman Sachs.”
However, Fred Hu writes pro-CCP editorials in the South China Morning Post. In one editorial, Hu emphasized that Hong Kong must not resist Chinese Communist power. In another piece, he compared the U.S. to a “bullying, hectoring superpower nation behaving with ill grace at the slightest whiff of competition.”
The BIS founders, Michael and Olga Block, sold the district to PCG in 2019 for an undisclosed amount. Before the acquisition, the Blocks had established several schools in China. Following the deal, the couple made notable real estate investments, including an $8.4 million penthouse in a Tribeca tower and a $6.7 million “spacious modern masterpiece” estate in Phoenix.
While the district acknowledges its ownership by Spring Education Group, which Primavera controls, it does not explicitly recognize the connection between Primavera and the CCP.
It should be noted that despite the assurances from both PCG and SEG that Hu is not affiliated with the CCP, he has advised the Chinese government on debt restructuring and delivered lectures at the Communist Party School in Beijing.
These revelations emerge against increasing CCP investments in the United States, encompassing assets like farmland and parcels near American military bases. Such developments have raised concerns among lawmakers, prompting several states to enact legislation restricting land purchases by foreign entities.
As the revelations about the ownership of New York City’s prestigious private schools continue to raise eyebrows, concerns extend beyond education. Parents who entrust these institutions with their children’s future may understandably question the implications of potential affiliations with foreign communist entities.
Simultaneously, lawmakers, already wary of foreign entities purchasing U.S. land, now face another dimension of this issue as the Chinese Communist Party’s reach seemingly extends into the education sector. The debate over foreign influence in sensitive sectors of American society is far from over.