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US should not 'welcome' Chinese students with interrogation, harassment and repatriation

By Kuan Ge | | Updated: 2024-01-03 11:30
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This photo taken on Oct 11, 2023 shows the US Capitol building in Washington, D.C., the United States. [Photo/Xinhua]

The news of Chinese students in the United States interrogated at the Washington Dulles International Airport and repatriated has become common on social media platforms. A conflux of emotions, panic, fear and anxiety has spread across the community.

It is reported that since late November, border law enforcement officers at the airport have groundlessly interrogated and repatriated five Chinese students within a month, hitting a record high in the briefest period. Four of the students were majoring in international relations and medicine. Holding valid US visas and no criminal record, they were detained and interrogated when they tried to re-enter the country. The fifth student, who went to the US for post-doctoral study, was entering the country for the first time.

According to the students' recounts they were forced to reveal their phone passwords, their electronic devices inspected, and they were bombarded with a battery of questions related to their academic background, whether they had received financial support from the Chinese government, and whether their research projects had anything to do with the government or the military. A student was brought to a "small dark booth" for three rounds of questioning lasting 10 hours. After the interrogation, they were all repatriated. Three of them saw their visas revoked, while the other two were told that their visas were invalid but without any reason.

The unreasonable actions by the US side, driven by strong ideological bias and far beyond the scope of normal law enforcement, are by nature discriminatory practices in the guise of law enforcement. Previous incidents targeted Chinese students going to the US for the first time, but now, even returning Chinese nationals have been targeted. Since July 2023, nearly 80 Chinese students and scholars have been interrogated and repatriated by the US authorities, and the number is climbing.

The Chinese government's position is crystal-clear. It has said it will resolutely safeguard their legitimate rights and interests. China has provided the US with a list of the repatriated and urged it to conduct a thorough investigation and give feedback in a timely manner. China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson also strongly condemned the US' actions, and urged it to correct its wrong practices and stop the groundless restrictions and suppression imposed on Chinese students.

The Trump administration signed the so-called Proclamation 10043 in June 2020, which targets Chinese students and scholars in specific professions, and suspends or restricts their entry into the US. Since then, under the pretext of safeguarding national security, the US law enforcement authorities have used the proclamation to overstretch the concept of national security and arbitrarily interrogated and repatriated Chinese students, which has caused a "chilling effect" and seriously poisoned the atmosphere of people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.

According to the Institute of International Education, the number of Chinese students in US universities has dropped to 289,000, compared with 370,000 four years ago. The number will likely further decline if the US continues to take discriminatory, selective and politically motivated law enforcement actions against Chinese students.

The US has branded itself as a champion of openness and inclusiveness. On the one hand, it flaunts the so-called academic freedom, boasted about its support for people-to-people exchanges and welcomed Chinese students to study in the US. On the other hand, it has politicized academic research and used it as a tool to suppress Chinese students and scholars.

Such self-contradictory wrongdoing, driven by the Cold War mentality and McCarthyism by its nature, is not conducive to expanding bilateral exchanges.. Under the pretext of safeguarding its so-called national security, it is aimed at curbing talent training and industrial development of China's high-tech sector, as well as maintaining the US hegemony over technology.

At the China-US Summit Meeting in San Francisco, the two leaders chartered the future-oriented "San Francisco Vision". They reaffirmed the importance of bilateral people-to-people exchanges, agreed to expand international student programs and to strengthen exchanges in culture, sports, youth and business communities. Biden made positive remarks, saying that he was glad to see the two countries expand education, science and technology and people-to-people exchanges.

The US law enforcement authorities' insistence on questioning and repatriating Chinese students not only goes against the common understanding made between the two leaders at the Summit in San Francisco and Biden's remarks, but also seriously impedes cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries. The selfish, xenophobic, and hegemonic nature of the United States has been laid bare, and it will ultimately backfire and damage its own interests and image.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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