Chinese University Hires ‘Patriotic,’ ‘Politically Educated’ Mentors For Foreign Students

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china-students-tsinghua-university-beijing-jul27-2016.jpg Students walk near the entrance of Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, July 27, 2016.

A university in the northeastern Chinese province of Jilin is recruiting patriotic and "politically sensitive" students to act as "buddies" for new foreign students arriving on campus this fall, RFA has learned.

Jilin University's international institute, which runs the curriculum offered to foreign students, many of whom are studying Chinese, last week issued a recruitment notice.

Many universities around the world run similar mentoring or "buddy" programs to help international students settle in to an unfamiliar environment.

But in China, the job comes with a few additional requirements.

Those who act as mentors, or "buddies," to incoming foreign students must "passionately love the motherland and this college, and be well-educated in what is politically sensitive," the Aug. 23 notice reads.

Candidates should also have good "organizational discipline," an apparent reference to the ability to stay on message when guiding newly arrived foreign students, it said.

An employee who answered the phone at the Jilin University's international institute on Friday appeared to confirm the move.

"We will probably run a buddy-recruitment event after enrollment," the staff member said. "We have had these events before, but they aren't run by this office."

"I can give you the number of the lecturer who is in charge of this," the person said.

The university said it is expecting more than 350 international students from more than 50 countries to enroll in September, and needs 100 of its students to act as "buddies" for them.

Application is open to undergraduate or postgraduate students "familiar with a foreign language and with good communication skills," the notice said.

Applicants should be in good health, with "no bad habits," and preferably be members of the Jilin University International Student Association, which includes, according to the university website, a "propaganda department" and an "organization department," both of which suggest affiliation to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Successful applicants will help international students to settle in and manage the daily problems of living in a new country, it said.

They will also help them to "participate in community activities and experience Chinese culture."

But repeated calls to the provided number were immediately cut off on Friday.

Commentators said the move comes amid a growing emphasis on loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party and especially to President Xi Jinping.

Spreading the party line

Rights activist Jia Pin said the move to assign "buddies" to foreign students is indicative of the current emphasis on spreading the party line, both at home and overseas.

"They fundamental reason for this lies with the current political system," Jia said. "The government has been splashing around a lot of money to buy prestige in recent years."

"[They are also] spending money to spread their own propaganda and build influence," he said. "I think this is what's mostly behind it."

A similar notice to the Jilin University advertisement was also visible on the website of Shandong University on Friday, while a similarly worded notice from Shanghai Communications University was dated 2015.

The move comes after Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University informed students from Hong Kong and Macau that they would be required to take part in compulsory military training undergone by mainland Chinese students from September.

And China's foreign ministry declined to renew the student visa of German postgraduate student David Missal after he filmed the activities of human rights lawyers as part of an academic assignment.

Missal, a postgraduate student of journalism at Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University, was approaching the second year of a two-year scholarship run by a German academic exchange body, the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst.

His first-year student visa was up for renewal, so Missal put in an application to the Entry and Exit Bureau of the Beijing police department, expecting it to be processed in around 10 days.

Instead, his visa was canceled, and a temporary visa issued until Aug. 12, giving him just 10 days to leave the country, according to photos posted to Missal's Twitter account.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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