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China: int’l students form student union

A group of international students enrolled at China’s universities have formed their own China International Student Union in response to the poor support and communication they have received during the pandemic.

student unionSome students haven't been able to return to their university in China for over a year. Photo: iStock

The petition received over 11,000 signatures within three days

For many, it has already been a year since they have set foot in the country after the timing of the Covid-19 outbreak coincided with Chinese New Year and many had taken advantage of the holidays to travel.

With borders closed to them and very little official communication about when they might be allowed back, a petition to the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs received over 11,000 signatures within three days of being posted.

“At the beginning we felt like everything was a bit scattered,” ‘Emma’, one of the China International Student Union organisers, said of trying to campaign for clearer messaging from the government.

“We need to come together and make our collective voice heard”

“But as times got harder, we realised that it’s not something we can do individually. So we need to come together and make our collective voice heard.”

While much of the social media campaign is taking place on Twitter and Instagram – both of which are banned in China, although the Chinese government and most universities have an active presence on at least Twitter – attempts were made to use Weibo to campaign but the idea was ultimately abandoned due to abusive responses and doxxing.

Universities and other stakeholders have urged patience from international students but, with the borders open to some visa categories, all students except those from South Korea have been left out. While there are bans on people from certain countries, the border is open to businessman and work visa holders who obtain a PU invitation letter from the government.

Students from NYU Shanghai were also exempt and able to return last year. A spokesperson said this was “a test case for the safe return of international students” done last fall.

“Just Guangzhou Baiyun Airport handled 43 million passengers in 2020,” Emma however noted, referencing the recent announcement that the airport has been named the busiest in 2020 globally.

“I’m not sure why they can’t handle a few hundred thousand students.”

“I’m not sure why they can’t handle a few hundred thousand students”

The China International Student Union advocates approaches such as allowing those who have been vaccinated to return and initiating staggered returns prioritising those in their final year or on practical courses.

“I think they’re putting us at the least priority. They’re putting us together with tourists,” said ‘Rajat’, another student who has been outside the country for over a year now even though many of his possessions – including his laptop – remain in China.

“We are just telling them that we are going to listen to you, your protocols, your rules. Just call us back, give us some hints and we’re going to follow you.”

The issue is made more pressing by low quality online teaching and moves by countries to restrict acceptance of online learning for medical courses.

The Pakistan Medical Commission for instance now requires provisional license applicants to provide copies of passport pages that prove they were abroad while studying. Similar measures have also been brought in in at least two Indian states.

“They upload the videos on this Chinese app called Chaoxing. They just put that video and the link stays for 12 hours. So within 12 hours, you can watch the class video and make your notes,” said Rajat.

Students at several universities have said their online classes amounted to little more than being sent pre-recorded messages or even powerpoints.

“What they’re having is not online classes,” noted another student who runs the Instagram account for the union.

He added that there is some concern about the response from the government and fears that speaking out could result in visa problems, hence why most students The PIE News spoke to wished to remain anonymous.

“The Chinese government is not like the UK government or the American government. It is quite different. So you’ve got to be very careful with them,” he said.

However, there are hopes that the China International Student Union will become a permanent group even after Covid-19 which could help address issues such unscrupulous agents, as well as providing a greater support network and more information for current and prospective students.

“In China, what we have is international students’ unions in each school. There is not a student union for all the students,at the different universities in China,” he said.

“It is not going to end with a Covid-19. We plan to keep it running.”

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5 Responses to China: int’l students form student union

  1. We’re facing a huge loss, online study isn’t satisfying we need to perform things practically in this field, kindly have a thought on my sincere request, it’s really very important for our career as well as betterment.

    • Hello, my name is Holly Ashton, and I am doing a research project for my dissertation on the experiences of Chinese international students before and after the outbreak of COVID-19. It would be great if any Chinese undergraduate students in your society would be willing to participate in my research which involves a semi-structured interview, lasting up to an hour. The research needs a total of 10 interviews from Chinese international students. The Interviews will be on a Microsoft Teams call and can be arranged for whenever is easiest for the student. If you could forward this information to anyone who would be interested that would be greatly appreciated and I will have my email available on the attached forms. I will attach the Participant information sheet and consent forms and they can be read, signed and returned to me through Safesend.
      Thank you,
      Holly Ashton

  2. All CMU Chinese batch
    Online students
    January 30,2021


    We as IES students in all humble appeal through this letter request for listening towards the return of students back into China Medical University . With the following points that every student has given as each require to complete the dream of studying with your institution .

    With the points :

     Students are having problems to use the apps,due to technical problems.
    Most of the students are having problems during their exams,mostly because of the apps that most of the time it doesn’t open and upload the photos.
    We are not included in small tests to get our 20 marks for the final exam.
    Different time ,have exam at 2:30 am most of the country’s.
    No one helping to understand .
    We can’t practice online .
    No available learning materials.
    Chinese applications doesn’t work in our country .
    Having problem with Tencent Meeting , Need Chinese phone number .
    Not allowed to do our makeup exams
    Network situations and we don’t have books .
    Labs are affected we can’t readily understand lab experiments and most of us have to redo them once we are back …. but we don’t even know when we will be back .
    We can’t even upload assignments yet it counts in the exams .
    They dont give us the stipend yet we spend a lot to buy internet bundles… Its almost a year .
    we need our scholarship money (6 months ) from September till February .
    We are more then ready to do the vaccine and ready to quarantine 14 days or more .
    We as international students have noticed that , Also include our mental health is not as standard as before , Because we are always worried and anxious in completing our studies .
    we are studying medicine through virtual classes we can’t become a doctor ,studying medicine need to have real experiments , how are we going to have a surgery in future if we have never seen it in our practice in the hospital during the studies .
    We are pleading with you and the institute to please allow to give us the required documentation and approval letters of invitation so that we may return to school as most embassies back in Our countries have requested please help us cooperate and get back to the normal learning as we will be able to take required measures to prevent the transmission and sustainability of good health among ourselves and others .

    CMU online students Chinese batch IES

  3. As a Medical Student, we need to have hands on experience at a hospital. My country isn’t ready to accept an internship done outside of china. I’ve already applied for a gap year. For how long should I hang on to the Hope of returning at least in 2022. As a scholarship student I haven’t been receiving the monthly stipend from September 2020till now. My parents are old and frail. As a 26 year old for how much longer do I need to depend on my parents? or should I just give up on my dreams of becoming a doctor and help people? Can china give us a suitable answer please because all international students lives depends on it.

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