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China considering 'coordinated' arrangement for return of foreign students, non-committal on timeline for Indians

Over 23,000 Indians are stuck at home for the past two years due to Beijing’s Covid-19 visa bans
Last Updated : 08 February 2022, 17:18 IST
Last Updated : 08 February 2022, 17:18 IST

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China said on Tuesday that it was considering a "coordinated" arrangement for the return of foreign students, but remained non-committal on a definite timeline to allow them, including over 23,000 Indians, who are stuck at home for the past two years due to Beijing’s Covid-19 visa bans.

Asked at a media briefing here on Tuesday when China will permit stranded Indian students and what is hindering Beijing to allow them, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian merely retreated what his ministry has been saying for over a year that Beijing wants an orderly return of the students as per the safety protocols of Covid-19. "I can tell you that the Chinese government attaches great importance to the issue of foreign students returning to China for their studies," Zhao said.

"We are considering in a coordinated manner the arrangement for allowing foreign students to return to China for their studies. We stand ready to work actively toward the healthy, safe and orderly cross-border flow of people on the basis of sound anti-epidemic protocols,” he said.

Last week, China promised during the visit of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan here to "arrange" for the return of about 28,000 Pakistani students. A joint statement issued at the end of Khan's four-day visit to China on Sunday said, “while ensuring safety against Covid-19, China will arrange for Pakistani students to return to China and resume classes in a prudent manner.”

China reportedly made similar assurances to Mongolia and Singapore whose leaders also visited Beijing to take part in the opening ceremony of the ongoing Beijing Winter Olympics.

Recently, the Sri Lankan government urged Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his visit to Colombo to permit its medical students studying in Chinese universities to return as their future was at stake.

While making these promises, Beijing has not given any definite timeline to those counties to permit the students to return.

Since 2020, China has stopped issuing visas for Indians and currently, there were no flights in operation between the two countries. The extension of China’s strict zero case policy of Covid-19 to thousands of foreign students, mostly studying in Chinese medical colleges, has virtually ruined nearly two years of their education.

The online classes that their colleges claim to conduct made little difference to the medical students who were deprived of valuable laboratory classes.

Into the second month of this year, Beijing is yet to commit to a definite timeline for the return of the Indian students and their South Asian counterparts besides hundreds of Indian employees and businessmen who are either stuck at home or separated from their families.

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Published 08 February 2022, 17:18 IST

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