Return to Chinese universities in 2022
Malaysian students can begin applying for their visas on at the Chinese Visa Application Service Center (CVASC) in Kuala Lumpur. Source: Jade Gao/AFP

Good news for Malaysian students enrolled in Chinese universities: those holding valid residence permits for study can return to campus starting from Aug. 24, 2022.

In a Facebook post published on Aug. 20, 2022, the Chinese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur announced that it is open to accepting visa applications from international students pursuing long-term education in China. 

The statement iterated the efforts undertaken by the Chinese and Malaysian governments, both of whom have been collaborating closely to facilitate the return of Malaysian students locked out of their universities for over two years. Due to China’s airtight zero-COVID policy, international travellers are still barred from entering the country except for certain study or business purposes. 

In a follow-up post on its Facebook page, the Chinese Embassy released a detailed explanation outlining visa eligibility and application procedures for Malaysian citizens. Students can book an appointment online and submit their documents in person for an X1 visa at the Chinese Visa Application Service Center (CVASC) in Kuala Lumpur.

Quoting Bernama, the Malaysian state news agency, The Star Online wrote that approximately 8,000 students from the country had not been able to resume their in-class lessons in Chinese universities since the border lockdown began in March 2020.

According to Take Malaysian Students Back to China, an online advocacy group on Twitter, 150 Malaysian students had previously landed at the Shanghai airport earlier this month on a special chartered flight arranged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Malaysia. 

The Twitter account became active in June this year when the student-led group began a concerted effort to lobby for their re-entry into Chinese universities. This included penning an open letter requesting Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Bin Abdullah and Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin to intervene on their behalf in urging the Chinese Embassy to fast-track their visa issuance.

Return to Chinese universities: China hints at “new visa policy” 

The promising news for Malaysians came alongside another update from Ji Rong, a counsellor in China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Dear all international students, thank you for your patience and for being with me together [waiting] for an official announcement of [a] new study visa policy. Finally, good news is coming. [I] suggest you follow up with [your] embassy closely for more details,” read a Tweet from Aug. 19, 2022. It is unclear what the new visa policy will entail, and which nationalities it would apply to.

The statement’s ambiguity did little to quell the frustrations of many other international students who have outspokenly campaigned for their return to Chinese universities. Among them are Indian students, who are still not cleared to resume studying on campus.

Most of them consist of medical students who are already halfway into their studies and have no recourse to continue their training locally due to stringent regulations on foreign-educated doctors by India’s National Medical Council (NMC). Under the NMC’s rules, graduates from overseas medical schools must complete their clinical training in the same country where their degrees were awarded.

Return to Chinese universities in 2022

Despite continuing their training in local hospitals, upper-year Indian medical students enrolled in Chinese and Ukrainian universities are unsure if their degrees will be recognised for clinical practice. Source: Arun Sankar/AFP

This has posed great difficulty for Indian students enrolled in Ukrainian and Chinese universities, who are currently in academic limbo over a situation beyond their control.

“While other countries are sending their students back to China, we don’t know what the Indian government is doing,” Shahnawaz Khan, a student at Anhui University who insists MBBS can’t be taught online, was quoted saying. “[We] should at least be given a chance for practicals in Indian colleges. We are even ready to pay for it.”

So far, other foreign students that have been authorised to enter China include groups of students from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Russia, and South Korea.