PRINCETON — Two assemblymen have introduced a resolution opposing the sale of Westminster Choir College by Rider University to a Chinese government-owned company over concerns they may use the school and its location for "nefarious purposes."

Rider's trustees voted to put the school up for sale in 2016 in part to help close a budget deficit faced by the school.

The school signed a $40 million agreement in June 2018 with Kaiwen Education. The new owners agreed to another $16 million investment in improvements to the school located in Princeton.

In a statement that referred to the new ownership as a "communist Chinese government owned company," Republican Assemblymen Hal Wirths and Parker Space noted that Kaiwen Education was in the steel business before buying Westminster with no background in music education.

"With the multitude of world-class scientists, researchers, and institutions located in Princeton, it appears that the Chinese government may be using the guise of academia to infiltrate the choir college for nefarious purposes, including the collection of U.S. intelligence and intellectual property theft," the Sussex County lawmakers said Thursday.

Wirths served as the labor commissioner under Gov. Chris Christie. Space's family runs the Space Farms and Zoo.

The resolution, ACR 222, calls upon the Legislature to oppose the sale because it "could jeopardize the security of United States citizens."

Rider spokeswoman Kristine Brown said the school is satisfied that the "best partner to achieve the stated goals of preserving and enhancing the Westminster brand, mission and history" has been selected and work continues to complete the transaction.

"To that end, Rider and Kaiwen are working closely with all the required regulatory and legal authorities, at both the state and federal levels, as well as with the appropriate higher education accreditation organizations," Brown said.

The Westminster Foundation is pursing a legal challenge to the sale. Superior Court Judge Paul Innes is waiting on a state Attorney General's Office review of the deal. The report is due on March 19.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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