After a semester online, Wang Jiwei was looking forward to meeting classmates who are returning to the Washington University campus in St. Louis. But the 2-year-old finance student said the United States had revoked his student visa for security reasons.
Wang, one of at least 500 students, said the Chinese government had rejected the policy under a policy issued by then-President Donald Trump to prevent Beijing from acquiring US technology, including possible military use. The students argue that it has been applied too broadly and that what they say is obscure they are spies.
“The whole thing is meaningless,” Wang said. “Do we finance students with the military?”
The students join companies and individuals whose plans have been thwarted by US-Chinese tensions over technology and security, Beijing’s military buildup, the origin of the coronavirus, human rights and conflicting demands in the South China Sea and other territories.
The policy closes visas to universities affiliated with the military wing of the ruling Communist Party, the People’s Liberation Army or universities considered part of Washington’s military modernization efforts.
U.S. officials say they believe thousands of Chinese students and researchers participate in programs that encourage them to transfer medical, computer and other sensitive information to China.
Washington refers to Beijing’s strategy of “civilian-military integration”, which says that the Chinese consider private companies and universities as resources for developing military technology.
The State Department said in a 2020 report that “joint research institutes, academia and private firms are being used to create future military systems for the PLA – often without their knowledge or consent.”
Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, gave no indication of what he would do.
According to the Shanghai online news outlet The Paper, Chinese officials applied to US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in July to lift the visa ban.
The US Embassy in Beijing said in a statement that “this policy is necessary to protect US national security interests.” It said the policy was a response to “some abuse of the visa process” and “narrowly targeted”.
More than 85,000 visas have been approved for Chinese students in the past four months, the embassy said.
“The numbers clearly show that the United States is ready to issue visas to all eligible people – including Chinese students and scholars,” it said.
China is the largest source of foreign students in the United States, according to U.S. government data. The number dropped by 20% in 2020 from the previous year, but at 800,000 it was almost double that of second-ranked India.
An engineer at a state-owned aircraft manufacturer said he was denied a visa with his wife, a visiting scholar studying cancer in California.
The engineer, who has just graduated and graduated from the Harbin Institute of Technology in northeastern China, with his title, Huang. A Chinese news report from one of the seven schools said they were involved in visa denials because they were linked to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
“I was insulted,” Huang said. “Does the fact that I graduated from this school mean that I am a spy? What is the difference between this and racism? ”
Huang said his wife’s fellowship lasted two to three years, but he would cut one off by dedicating his career to staying away from their two children for too long.
“When one country fights another, it has a huge impact on people,” Huang said.
Rejection letters received by several students quoted Trump’s order but gave no details of the decision. However, some students said they were turned down when asked which university they attended.
Wang, a finance student, said he had received the visa, but the US embassy later called to say it had been revoked.
Wang graduated from the Beijing Institute of Technology, another university associated with visa rejection due to its connection to the Ministry of Industry. Others include Beijing Aerospace University, Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Harbin Engineering University and Northwestern Polytechnic University.
Graduates of Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications also say they have been rejected.
Five Chinese scientists from the University of California and Indiana were charged last year with lying about possible military connections in a visa application. The allegations were dropped in July after the judiciary said an FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) report found that such crimes often had nothing to do with technology theft.
The Chinese government complained in August that three students with visas had been denied entry to the United States at Houston airport after receiving pictures of military training on their phones.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Beijing “strongly condemns and rejects” the policy and has called on the US government to change it.
A group that says it represents more than 2,000 students and scholars has announced plans to sue to have the court overturned or narrowed the sanctions.
According to Kurt Dirks, vice chancellor of international affairs at Washington University in St. Louis, “a handful of student visas” were affected.
Students can start the semester online or wait until next year, Darks said in an email.
“If they continue to face challenges, the university will work with them so that they can complete their programs online,” Darks said.
Monica’s mother, 2ica, said she was denied a US visa to pursue a master’s degree in information management at Carnegie Mellon University.
A graduate of the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications said that after working with her degree for a year in Australia, she would have to attend classes in person at the Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh because they were no longer taught online.
The mother said she had a job offer from an internet company for which she had to complete her degree. He has postponed his attendance for classes until next year in the hope that he can get a visa by then.
“I can’t change it through my efforts. That’s the saddest thing,” said the mother.
Lee Kuan Yew, an electrical engineering student in the southern city of Guiyang, said he was accepted by Columbia University but failed to get a visa. Li graduated from Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications.
Carnegie Mellon and Columbia did not respond to emailed questions.
Lee has left for Hong Kong and says he is happy there.
“I’m not going to change the rules,” Lee said. “The United States has rejected me, and I’m not going.”