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How will China’s zero-COVID policy affect international students?

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The world’s second largest economy has a zero-COVID policy, and most foreigners are unable to return to China. Source: Greg Baker/AFP

International students are desperate to return to China to resume their education, but there has still not been any clear indication when China’s borders will reopen. 

The world’s second largest economy has a zero-COVID policy, and most foreigners are unable to travel to the country. Despite its strict measures, reports suggests several provinces are struggling to contain the Delta variant.

According to The Economist, a few of the country’s top scientists have cautiously questioned how long China’s zero-COVID policies may last, and that there are no signs the government is moving away from its position. Strict quarantine requirements may therefore persist for much, if not all, of 2022, it said.

return to china

International students have been campaigning for their return and for China’s borders to reopen to them, adding that they are willing to get vaccinated and quarantined.

Return to China: What we know

While most international students are still waiting to return to China, students from South Korea have been granted visas, said reports. According to China’s education ministry, there were nearly 500,000 international students in China in 2018, with more than half from Asia. 

Students from South Korea form the largest nation of the total international student population in China. Since the pandemic, the country’s strict border closures have meant that many international students have been locked out of the country for over a year. 

In September, China Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said: “China’s prevention and control measures are scientific, professional and appropriate. I want to stress that China applies quarantine measures equally to all inbound travelers, including its own citizens.”

On Twitter, students are voicing their frustrations over the lack of support and information by Chinese universities and authorities over their return using the #TakeStudentsBacktoChina hashtag.

China International Student Union (CISU), an independent representative body of international students enrolled at universities and institutions in China, has been asking for a clear date of return from the relevant authorities in the country.

International students have been campaigning for their return to China and for China’s borders to reopen to them, adding that they are willing to get vaccinated and quarantined. Moin Uddin Helaly Thouhid is a petroleum engineering student in China who was among the students who staged a demonstration in Dhaka in September, calling for their return to China. 

The Bangladeshi, who is fully vaccinated with Sinopharm, previously told Study International: “We want to follow all health protocols and be ready to help the Chinese administration with their strategies for taking us back. 

“We are well aware of COVID-19 protocols, and we respect the decision of the Chinese government to prevent spreading new cases! But the matter of fact is, most of the international students are vaccinated now and ready to quarantine if needed.”