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September 15, 2021

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US visa rejections hurt Chinese students

After a semester online, Wang Ziwei looked forward to meeting classmates who are returning to campus at Washington University in St Louis. But the 23-year-old finance student said the US revoked his student visa on security grounds.

Wang is among at least 500 students the Chinese government says have been rejected under a policy issued by then-President Donald Trump to block China from obtaining US technology with possible military uses. Students argue it is applied too broadly and fume at accusations that they are spies.

“The whole thing is nonsense,” Wang said. “What do we finance students have to do with the military?”

The policy blocks visas for people who are affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army, or universities deemed by Washington to be part of military modernization efforts. Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, has given no indication of what he might do.

Chinese officials appealed to US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to drop the visa restrictions when she visited in July, according to The Paper, a Shanghai online news outlet.

Separately, a group of 177 Stanford University professors sent an open letter this month asking the US Justice Department to end the China Initiative, another Trump-era program that investigates researchers in the United States. The letter signers say it has raised concerns about racial profiling and discouraged scholars from staying in or coming to the country.

China is the biggest source of foreign students in the United States. The number fell 20 percent in 2020 from the previous year but at 380,000 was nearly double that of second-ranked India.

An engineer at a state-owned aircraft manufacturer said he was turned down for a visa to accompany his wife, a visiting scholar in California studying pediatric cancer. The engineer has undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Harbin Institute of Technology in China’s northeast. It is one of seven schools Chinese news reports say are associated with visa rejections because they are affiliated with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.


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