Last year, due to the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, thousands of international students got stuck in China during March. Due to prompt support from their respective governments, most countries’ students were safely vacated in time. Since then, the Chinese Government had suspended all international student visas indefinitely. Students have been pursuing their courses online for the past year but now wish to return to Chinese Universities as other countries also relax travel restrictions on students.
#takeusbacktoscool, an open letter to the Chinese Government
In an open letter addressed to the Chinese Government, international students worldwide admitted to Chinese universities pen down their concerns and seek permission to return. More than four lakh students from different parts of the world pursue their higher education in china. More than twenty thousand Indian students pursuing medicine in Chinese Universities have also raised their voices. As medicine is a practical based study, students complain that the online mode of education is insufficient. Moreover, they do not have access to labs, which is affecting their skill set adversely. Internet connectivity also remains an issue for students residing in developing countries. Many don’t have access to high-speed internet or even electricity in their home countries. Students have also claimed that their scholarships have been terminated without any explanation, which has resulted in enormous hardships for them. Also, students with hefty education loans are concerned due to delays in their courses. This letter adequately highlights some of the major problems all students are facing in this pandemic year.
Citing their grievances, students have promised to follow all Covid-19 guidelines if they are allowed to return. From testing to mandatory fourteen-day quarantine, they are willing to follow all the rules laid down by the Government. Still, they wish to return to their respective universities as soon as possible. They have demanded a phase-wise plan by the Government for the safe return of international students to China.
Is a second Covid – 19 wave anticipated in China?
When Chinese authorities thought they had successfully tackled the Corona Virus pandemic in their own country, they were hit by a second wave of infections. As soon as Beijing reported a sudden spike in cases, the authorities were alarmed. This time instead of a nationwide lockdown, with targeted quarantining and mass testing of more than half of the capital city, they successfully spread to other provinces.
More recently, there has been a second wave in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. Residents of Hebei and Jilin province have also been put under lockdown. The Chinese New Year has almost been canceled as the mobility of people gets restricted again. Despite strict travel restrictions, the recent rise in Covid cases has made the Chinese Government apprehensive about international students’ return.
As the number of Covid cases continues to rise in neighboring India, Europe, and the USA, the Chinese do not wish international students to return with the virus from their native countries. The Covid guidelines are merely precautionary. An unidentified asymptomatic carrier walking the streets could nullify all the Chinese regime’s efforts over the last year.
Response to the student open letter by the Chinese Ministry
The Chinese authorities have never been easy to deal with. Despite such united efforts by the students, the response of authorities remains ambiguous. China’s foreign ministry has stated that they give great importance to international students’ well-being and will handle this matter holistically and comprehensively. In the wake of the second wave of the pandemic, there are many factors to be considered. Jeopardizing the public’s health can in no way be tolerated. Hence it seems unlikely that travel restrictions to China will be uplifted anytime soon. Students must remain patient and continue their courses online until the situation improves.
They have requested Universities to address personal student concerns to the best of their capacity. Online classes will likely continue for some more time, so students are urged to communicate and coordinate with their respective colleges. All in all, it does not seem like a return plan for the international student community of China is anywhere shortly. As international students from other countries go back to pursue physical classes, it remains a farfetched dream for Chinese international students.
On ground Covid 19 situation in China
Over the past month, China has started its Covid 19 vaccination drives. First to be injected are high-risk individuals working on the front lines. More than 10 million have already been vaccinated. As lockdown restrictions were slowly being uplifted, a staggering 103 new Covid cases were recorded in Beijing in a day. This was a cause for significant concern, and people’s mobility from Beijing was restricted to avoid unnecessary spread into other provinces. As China reports more than 100 daily cases, one might say that the second wave of Covid 19 has hit the communist country. This second wave is one of the main concerns stated by the Chinese Government as they refuse international students’ return.
When China was experiencing a drop in cases for some time, they had opened flights for non-Chinese business owners. But international students were still never allowed to enter the country post-March. Some students had to take a gap year, severely impacting their morale, finance, and future. After returning home in the winter of 2020, they haven’t set foot inside the country. The current situation suggests that international students’ return to campus physically is not a priority for Chinese authorities.
Through representing a fierce united voice, the open letter from the international student community failed to persuade the Chinese Government. Their demand for a phase-wise return hasn’t been given much importance. As universities worldwide welcome back their international student community this new academic year, China does not seem to follow suit. We can hope in the coming months, with successful vaccination drives across the globe, the Covid 19 pandemic will be curtailed. It is only then that students will be able to rejoin physical classes at Chinese Universities. Till then, international students must remain patient and continue with online education, says the Chinese authorities.