‘Waiting isn’t a suitable solution’: Bangladeshi students stage demonstration to return to China

China's borders
Bangladeshi students staged a demonstration in Dhaka so they can return to China for their studies. Source: Moin Uddin Helaly Thouhid

China’s borders remain closed to most international students at the time of writing, but their plans to return to China have yet to fizzle out. Hundreds of Bangladeshi students reportedly staged a demonstration and formed a human chain outside the National Press Club in the country’s capital — Dhaka — on Sept. 5, calling for their return to China.

Moin Uddin Helaly Thouhid, who claimed to have participated in the demonstration, said international students want an indication of when they can return to China and are willing to be vaccinated, pay for quarantine and follow protocols. 

Thouhid, a petroleum engineering student at the Southwest Petroleum University in Sichuan, said students have been waiting for almost two years for their return. “Waiting isn’t a suitable solution,” he told Study International.

The 23-year-old has been studying online since March 2020. His university, however, has maintained “good communication with students” and are doing their level best to deliver students’ learning “in the best possible way.” This includes ensuring online learning isn’t disrupted for students in different time zones, but Thouhid notes there are limitations.

“As engineering students, we have practical and lab classes in almost every course,” he said, adding that practical classes aren’t as effective when conducted online. “[It’s] not only engineering students but also [students of] different fields such as medical and PhD students [who are] are also facing the same problems.” 

China's borders

International students want an indication of when they can return to China. Source: Moin Uddin Helaly Thouhid

How China’s borders are affecting international students

International students continue to be frustrated by the country’s response regarding their return to the country, with a lack of clear timeline and communication from the authorities since China’s borders closed last year. As a result, students have continued to campaign for their return online. Affected students have been using the hashtag #TakeUsBackToChina to voice their frustrations.

While most international students are still waiting to return to China, students from South Korea have been granted visas, said reports. According to China’s education ministry, there were nearly 500,000 international students in China in 2018, with more than half from Asia. Students from South Korea form the largest nation of the total international student population in China. Since the pandemic, the country’s strict border closures have meant that many international students have been locked out of the country for over a year. 

China's borders

Thouhid said students are willing to be vaccinated, pay for quarantine and follow protocols. Source: Moin Uddin Helaly Thouhid

Abid Ashraf Bishal, one of the organisers of the demonstration in Bangladesh by Voice of Bangladeshi Students in China (VBSC), told Anadolu Agency that most students have met the Chinese government’s precondition of getting the Sinopharm vaccine before returning to the country, and should be given visas and other assistance for their travel to China. “The smaller part who have yet to take vaccines will also be inoculated immediately, so our study period should not be delayed anymore,” Bishal was quoted saying.

A board member of VBSC, who asked to be identified as Hassan Ahmed, told Study International that VBSC was established to help international students return to China. Over 6,000 students purportedly joined. The medical graduate from Ningbo University, China claimed his career as a doctor is in jeopardy. He has completed his five-year MBBS programme but has yet to finish his clinical training at a hospital due to the border closure. His degree stipulates that he finishes his degree requirements within eight years, but it has been almost two years since he has been able to return to China.

His emails and communication to the authorities in China and Bangladesh have yet to yield results. “We will protest again. We protested in the [National] Press Club area and in front of the foreign ministry,” he said.

Thouhid, who is fully vaccinated with Sinopharm, said: “We want to follow all health protocols and be ready to help the Chinese administration with their strategies for taking us back. We are well aware of COVID-19 protocols, and we respect the decision of the Chinese government to prevent spreading new cases! But the matter of fact is, most of the international students are vaccinated now and ready to quarantine if needed.”