studying in china
Thousand of international students are studying in China remotely. Source: Philippe Lopez

Studying in China hasn’t been possible for thousands of international students currently locked out of the country due to China’s zero-COVID policy, but things could soon be looking up for Pakistani students.

A joint statement released by China and Pakistan on Sunday said China will arrange for Pakistani students to return to China but did not give a timeline. 

“Both sides noted with satisfaction robust cooperation between Pakistan and China in education (sic) sector, and committed to further enhance cooperation between the educational institutions of the two countries,” read the statement. 

“Pakistan side highlighted that China has become a popular education destination. While ensuring safety against COVID-19, China will arrange for Pakistani students to return to China and resume classes in a prudent manner.”

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan recently concluded his four-day visit to China, where reports said he met with top Chinese leadership from political and business areas and attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Studying in China: 28,000 Pakistani students waiting to return

According to reports, some 28,000 Pakistani students are affected by China’s tough border closures and are studying from home. Studying in China has only been possible for South Korean students who were granted an exemption in July 2020.

International students are cracking under the strain of China stonewalling their return. Many are attending classes online, which comes with a set of challenges that diminish their overall learning experience. The situation is more pressing for medical students, whose degrees will not be recognised for professional practice without hands-on practical work.

International students locked out of China have been campaigning for their return on Twitter through hashtags such as #TakeStudentsBacktoChina and #TakeUsBackToChina. 

studying in china

South Korean students are studying in China after the Chinese and Korean governments reinstated the issuance of visas. Source: Johannes Eisele/AFP

Pakistani students, on the other hand, have been rallying behind the hashtag #PMSavePakStudentsOfChina on Twitter as part of their ongoing fight to return to universities in China. Many appealed for the prime minister to leverage his presence in China to talk about the possibility of an imminent return before his trip to China. 

Wang Wenbin, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, recently announced that China is prepared to resume travel with Singapore and facilitate Singaporean students’ return to the country. 

In December, Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah told Malaysian media that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Malaysia was among the highest on the list of countries with students in China.

“He did not say when (students could start returning), but from what he told me, they want (the process to begin) as soon as possible,” Abdullah was quoted saying.