Visas

‘First phase’ of Pakistani students allowed to return to China

china international students return
Visas are being issued for some 200 Pakistani students to return to China. This serves as a positive development for China international students return. Source: Mladen Antonov/AFP

More visas are reportedly being issued for China international students return, bringing those locked out of the country one step closer to completing their degrees. 

Dawn.com reported that Pakistani Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Rana Tanveer Hussain on Tuesday directed the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and other stakeholders to resolve visa and travel-related issues faced by Pakistani students in China due to the pandemic.

This serves as a positive development for China international students return.

The directive was issued at a meeting with a delegation of Pakistani students who are unable to return to China due to the pandemic. They remain stuck in Pakistan since then, said the report.

Among those present include representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who informed the meeting that in the first phase, China had given a list of 251 students to Pakistan; 60% of students were contacted.


On Twitter, Hussain said he was making efforts to ensure students can return to China while being mindful of the country’s COVID-19 policies.

“Met student delegations who are unable to return to China due to covid & heard their issues along with officials from HEC & MoFA,” he tweeted. “I have assured them of our [government’s] full support to help resume their studies. At the same time we have to be respectful of China’s internal policy and find a way that is workable for both countries.”

He added, “We thank them for allowing first phase of students to return to china, Hec is reaching out to those students. Arrangements for their return will also be assisted by govt departments.”

According to Dawn.com, HEC has been directed to use all resources in reaching out to students who have not yet been contacted.

Authorities within the education ministry have also been directed to work out a mechanism where the government will assist affected students by sharing related costs involved.

Pakistan’s education attaché to Beijing has been directed to play a central coordinating role and follow up with the Chinese authorities to resolve the issues of the students, said the report.

Medical students in particular are unable to move forwards with their careers, as countries such as Pakistan and India warned that online degrees would not be recognised as valid qualifications. Source: Paul Ellis/AFP

“Honorary Minister [Hussain has] assured [the government’s] full support to the students and has reiterated that all efforts will be made for resumption of their studies at Chinese Uni’s,” tweeted Pakistan’s Ministry of Federal Education. “The Ministry’s Edu Attache at Beijing has been directed to speed up the efforts aimed at resolving the issues of our students.”

Hope for China international students’ return?

Many students have responded positively to the news after being locked out of China — and their universities — for over two years. 

“Thanks sir for your kind support,” tweeted one student. “We hope very soon [that] we will return back to China.”

Pakistani students are among thousands of others that were affected by China’s zero-COVID policy. Many were forced to attend classes online, which presented a set of challenges for those with unreliable internet access. Just as many had left their laptops along with other essential study materials in their dormitories in China, believing that they would be returning to the country after a short winter break. 

Medical students in particular are unable to move forwards with their careers, as countries such as Pakistan and India warned that online degrees would not be recognised as valid qualifications. This is due to a lack of hands-on practical work, which is necessary for them to work in the field. 

Pakistani students have turned to Twitter, using the hashtag #PMSavePakStudentsOfChina to raise awareness of their plight. Following this, a joint statement by China and Pakistan in February announced that the two countries would work together to facilitate China international students’ return to their universities. 

Despite this, students have expressed concern that the limited number will have devastating impacts on those who are in their final year of education. Reports suggest that are some 7,000 international students from Pakistan studying in China.

Students from India still awaiting news on their return

Meanwhile, Indian students have not received confirmation on their return to China despite campaigning on social media. 

There are over 20,000 Indian students enrolled in various courses in Chinese universities, including medical programmes.

Many have opted for practical training in local hospitals to make up for the gap in their education, but have received no guarantees from India’s Medical Commission that these would be accepted. 

In March, reports indicated that the two countries’ Foreign Ministries were in talks to resolve the issue of China international students’ return.

“We hope that China will take a non-discriminatory approach since it involves the future of so many young people,” India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar was quoted saying. “Minister Wang Yi assured me that he would speak to the relevant authorities on his return on this matter. He also recognised the particular concerns that medical students have in this difficult situation.”