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International students petition to return to universities in China

Many students have voiced their frustrations over the lack of support and information by Chinese universities and authorities over their return. Source: Philippe Lopez/AFP

Thousands have signed an online petition for the return of international students to universities in China. China International Student Union (CISU), which consists of representatives from over 200 universities across China, has penned an open letter to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to provide students with a clear date regarding their return. At the time of writing, some 10,600 people have signed the petition.

CISU highlights several challenges and frustrations faced by international students. This includes paying fees for physical rather than online classes, which is not what they paid or signed up for, adding that “online classes are of extremely poor quality.” Many international students are also struggling with the time difference between their home countries and China, which “makes online classes impossible”. 


The campaign reads, “During our information gathering we learned a lot of students attend online classes between 12 a.m. to 6 a.m.. We further gathered that students from developing countries have poor internet access and other technical issues trying to connect to classes online.” Many students also struggle to concentrate on learning at home.

CISU added that they are “joining the rest of the students in asking for a clear date of return from the relevant authorities in China.” While they understand the concerns of the authorities — i.e., students could be virus carriers — they add that safe travel protocols are possible to facilitate their return to Chinese universities.

International students have been locked out of China since March 2020 due to COVID-19-related border closures. Through a Twitter campaign, #TakeStudentsBacktoChina, many students have voiced their frustrations over the lack of support and information by Chinese universities and authorities over their return. The pandemic has disrupted their studies while scholarship recipients who are not in China have claimed to have stopped receiving their monthly stipends.

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