‘Stop harassing’ Chinese students, Beijing tells US

American officials say any deportations of Chinese students are not for political reasons.
By Alex Willemyns for RFA
2024.02.20
‘Stop harassing’ Chinese students, Beijing tells US China’s Minister of Public Security Wang Xiaohong, sixth from right at table, meets with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, sixth from left at table, in Vienna, Austria, Feb. 18, 2024.
Xinhua via Getty Images

Chinese Public Security Minister Wang Xiaohong has accused U.S. authorities of “harassing” Chinese students studying in America and called for law enforcement to instead work harder to “ensure the safety” of Chinese diplomatic personnel sent to the United States.

The comments came during talks with Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in Vienna on Sunday, according to a report by the Chinese state news agency Xinhua. Both Wang and Mayorkas were in Austria after attending the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

The meeting was ostensibly about renewed cooperation between China and the United States to stem outflows from China of precursors for the synthetic opioid fentanyl, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security called those talks “candid and constructive.”

“The two sides also made commitments with respect to continued law enforcement cooperation, technical bilateral exchanges between scientists and other experts, scheduling of precursor chemicals, and furthering multilateral cooperation,” it said in a statement.

U.S. and Chinese law enforcement officials held the first meeting of the new bilateral Counternarcotics Working Group on Jan. 30, following an agreement struck by U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping during their high-profile summit in San Francisco last year.

However, the Xinhua report said Wang “also urged the U.S. side to stop harassing and interrogating Chinese students for no reason, and ensure that Chinese citizens enjoy fair entry, treatment and full dignity.”

The report said that Wang also called for the United States to stop officially listing China as a “major drug source country,” and to “take concrete and effective measures to ensure the safety of Chinese diplomatic and consular missions and personnel” in America.

The statement from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security noted only that the pair discussed “areas of concern within the bilateral relationship” and agreed to continue discussions on the matters.

Claims of harassment

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin last month accused the United States of deporting “tens” of Chinese students from the United States after detaining and interrogating them for hours, with many having arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport.

Wenbin described the deportations as “political” and said the students were detained for hours without being allowed to contact anyone, despite having obtained the correct visas to study in America.

But the U.S State Department, which by policy does not comment on individual visa cases, has said that any decision to deny entry to a Chinese student would not have been for political reasons. 

U.S. officials have also noted the comparatively large number of Chinese students who have gained entry without any issues.

“We have about 300,000 Chinese students studying in the United States,” said deputy spokesman Vedant Patel at a Feb. 5 press briefing, calling for more students to study in the United States.

“Our visa process is quite rigorous and quite solid,” he said. “Without speaking to anybody’s specific visa circumstance, the process is adjudicated in the utmost strict, rigorous, and legal manner.”

Beijing’s complaints follow warnings from the United States last year that Americans considering visiting China should reconsider their travel due to the growing number of “exit bans” on people trying to leave.

Meanwhile, Chinese students studying in the United States have complained of being monitored and harassed by other Chinese nationals after expressing criticisms of China’s government. 

A Georgetown University student told a congressional hearing in December that the harassment made him feel that “no matter where in the world you are … you're never free” of Beijing’s grasp.

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