Chinese foreign ministry spokesman confirms return of ‘small number’ of int’l students

Chinese foreign ministry
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian takes a question at the daily media briefing in Beijing on April 8, 2020. Source: Greg Baker/AFP

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian confirmed on Monday that the government would allow the return of “a small number” of international students based on students’ majors but did not give a timeline. Beijing previously gave assurances over the return of students from Singapore, Malaysia, India and Pakistan without a deadline. 

In a press conference, Zhao said China “is coordinating arrangement for a small number of foreign students with actual needs to return to China in light of the changing international epidemic situation and the characteristics of the students’ majors”. 

Zhao did not specify which majors will be prioritised but added that students concerned must strictly comply with China’s epidemic prevention protocols. “China has taken these reasonable measures with a view to protecting the health and safety of all Chinese citizens as well as foreign nationals in China,” he said. “We hope and believe that we will have your understanding.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry

A recent survey by China International Student Union found that students locked out of China have not been able to gain practical experience for their MBBS programme by studying remotely. Source: Anthony Wallace/AFP

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman comments — a positive signal for students?

When pressed for clarification on how the basis visas will be issued to students from which country, Zhao reiterated: “As the tsunami of Omicron variant continues to rage across the world, China has taken reasonable and necessary prevention and control measures aimed at protecting the health and safety of Chinese citizens, foreign nationals in China as well as a small number of international students coming to China. 

“We will consider in a coordinated manner the matter of foreign students returning to their classes in China, actively explore feasible options and gradually arrange for those with the need to return in an orderly fashion.”

The comments from the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson serves as a positive signal that the Chinese government will allow the return of international students to China, but his vague answers drew the ire of Twitter users; Many were frustrated by the lack of a deadline.

One Twitter user said, “Foreign students allowed to come back soon if they have ‘Need’. What are these ‘Needs’? When exactly would this be possible? We (foreign students) have heard alot of promises in the past, so give us full details this time.”