Indian medical students
Patience is wearing thin as the authorities fail to communicate a clear deadline on when students can return to China. Source: Sam Panthaky/AFP

International students, locked out of China, continue to be frustrated by Beijing’s response regarding their return to the country. There has been no clear timeline and communication from the authorities since China’s borders were closed to students last year. 

One group that is anxious over the sharp absence of hands-on classes since then is Indian medical students. According to PTI, via The Indian Express, thousands of these students went home early last year for their winter break and have remained stranded there since. Students have resorted to installing virtual private networks (VPN) to access their online classes.

Many worry their future as doctors are in jeopardy. An MBBS student at Xi’an Jiaotong University told the daily that while he still attends online classes, he was “completely missing out on practicals” and has not done an anatomy dissection despite being in his second year. Another student was quoted saying that many students, including herself, installed VPN to access their classes.

Indian medical students plead authorities via tweets

Quoting Indian Embassy data, The Hindu said there are some 23,000 Indian students in China, almost all of whom are in medical programmes. Students have been using the hashtags  #PMModiHelpIntlStudents and #TakeUsBackToChina, to get their voices heard on Twitter.

Some students have tweeted that they have not attended any practical classes and are worried about their future, while others argued that online learning is no supplement to offline learning, especially in the case of medical students. 

Students have written to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting the government to intervene and start talks with the Chinese government to help take students back to their respective universities. “We are 25,000 Indian students studying in Chinese universities who have been forced to participate in online classes for the past 17 months because of travel and visa restrictions. Our medical study requires a lot of practical and group work, but our entry to China and our respective universities are banned for the past year-and-a-half and we are suffering every day,” read the letter, as reported The Hindustan Times. Indian medical students

Indian medical students, missing out on practical classes, worry their careers are in jeopardy. Source: Narinder Nanu/AFPShamik Majumdar from Omkar Medicom, a consultancy for Indian students wanting to pursue MBBS abroad, was quoted saying that China is allowing international students to return gradually but the second wave of COVID-19 in India has slowed down the process for Indian students.

“I have been in touch with the deans of different universities where Indian students are studying, and the colleges are saying that they want the students to return, but India’s COVID-19 situation is not completely under control yet,” he said. “Since China is preparing for the Winter Olympics, it is likely that these students will be allowed to return by September or October this year.”

The Embassy of India in China had previously issued a statement in March, noting that the embassy has continued to follow up closely with Chinese authorities, including its Ministry of Education. “Chinese authorities at various levels continue to maintain their position that, on account of last year’s announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China and the State Administration of Immigration to suspend temporarily the entry of foreigners holding valid Chinese Visa and residence permits following the outbreak of COVID-19 in many countries in the world, overseas students are temporarily unable to enter China,” it said.

“Chinese authorities have also conveyed that they are aware of the concerns of the students and have asked all relevant Chinese universities to maintain close contact with the students and keep them informed, besides continuing with the online courses. It has also been suggested by Chinese authorities that Indian students stay in touch with their universities and pursue their studies in accordance with the suggestions and guidance of the universities.”