return to China
International students want a swift return to China. Source: May James/ AFP

International students have started a #TakeStudentsBacktoChina campaign on Twitter and here’s why: there is a lack of support and information by Chinese universities and authorities over when foreign students will be allowed to return to China. The situation is hurting master’s and PhD students the most as they need to be physically present in China to conduct their research. With no recourse to do so, their ability to complete their degrees on time hangs on the balance. 

“In this situation graduate students cannot perform scientific and sociological research, since most of the topics of their graduation papers are related to the Chinese language or culture,” Tweeted user “@Julia89661093” 

COVID-19 regulations. Source: Kena Betancur / AFP

While more Canadian universities are reopening, international students have been barred from entering or leaving China. For some, the solution for now is to take online classes. Others are not as fortunate. A British chemist working toward her PhD at a Chinese university told Times Higher Education, “I cannot complete my work remotely at all, as it is completely lab-based. My PhD will be suspended and delayed until I’m able to return; however, it will reduce my chances of completing my PhD in the time limit, as some universities only allow enrolment for a maximum of five years.”

Since late March, international students have not been granted access to the country and are getting more frustrated by the lack of communication and updates they are receiving. China’s Ministry of Education told the Indian Embassy in Beijing “It is suggested that students should maintain close contact with relevant Chinese colleges and unis and arrange to study in China in strict accordance with suggestions and guidance.”

Frustrated international students are now campaigning to be allowed back into China. They are collecting signatures and sending videos of appeal to Chinese consulates overseas and foreign consulates in China. Chances of this working, however, appear dim for now. As cases surge around the world, China has barred non-Chinese travellers from Britain, France, Belgium, the Philippines and India. 

Flights into the country are severely limited and can be cancelled at short notice. Anyone who wants to return to China must take two COVID-19 tests no more than 48 hours before their flight. They must also show test results from each country they transit to and undergo 14 days of self-funded quarantine.

Some international students are stranded in China and cannot leave. Some have had their scholarship support cut, making many struggle to make rent and pay for food.