At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not an unfamiliar sight to see student protests — staged both online and offline — occurring worldwide for borders to reopen to international students. Many lamented that they were ready to quarantine, get vaccinated and follow protocol to return to campus.
While countries such as Australia and Japan have since eased travel restrictions to allow students to return, China remains firmly shut to most international students.
Last year, hundreds of Bangladeshi students reportedly staged a demonstration, forming a human chain outside the National Press Club in the country’s capital — Dhaka — in September, calling for their return to China.
On March 19, 2022, MBBS students protested outside of the secretariat in Kerala and demanded recognition for their practical training at various government and private hospitals in the state.
For two years, Indian MBBS students locked out of China have had to contend with online learning and completing their in-house training in local government and private hospitals.
More recently, Indian students held an online campaign to return to Chinese universities on Sunday using the #SaveIndianSudentsOfChina and #TakeUsBackToChina hashtags on Twitter. Students are hoping the relevant government authorities will facilitate their return to China.
Twitter account Indian Students In China announced in a tweet: “We got so much to lose, let’s stand for ourselves and let them not take what’s our right. Join us on our Sunday Twitter Campaign from 11 am – to 4 pm (sic).”
Another Time has come when we have to stick together as China FMGs. We got so much to lose, let’s stand for ourselves and let them not take what’s our right.
Join us on our Sunday Twitter Campaign from 11 am – to 4 pm #SaveIndianStudentsOfChina #TakeUsBackToChina pic.twitter.com/bQGF1pQhYx
— Indian Students in China (@IndianChina) April 15, 2022
Student protests for a quality education
Twitter was previously abuzz with claims that some Thai students have successfully returned to China after almost two years of being locked out. The alleged return of Thai students to China has inspired hope in others that they could be allowed back to their respective universities soon.
Chinese Ambassador to Thailand Han Zhiqiang indicated last October that Thai students would be among the first to return to China. “If the Chinese government is ready to allow hundreds of thousands of international students to return, Thai students will be among the first,” he was quoted saying by the Bangkok Post.
International students are facing numerous challenges due to China’s prolonged border closure. Many had left important personal belongings in their dormitories, thinking they would only be gone for their winter break, while others are finding it difficult to adjust to online learning.
Students undertaking programmes with practical components, such as the MBBS programme, are in a limbo and are unsure how to complete their degrees remotely.
An Indian medical student who only wanted to be identified as Meera previously told Study International that online learning is not a good substitute for medical students who require clinical skills to practice in the future.
“Being in such a programme where we have to treat patients, we need practical sessions and hands-on experience,” she said.
Moin Uddin Helaly Thouhid, a petroleum engineering student in China, previously told Study International: “As engineering students, we have practical and lab classes in almost every course.” The Bangladeshi said practical classes aren’t as effective when conducted online.
“[It’s] not only engineering students but also [students of] different fields such as medical and PhD students [who are] are also facing the same problems,” he said.
Since 2 years Chinese Indian Medical students are in trouble. Please Help them. NMC and Helath Ministry Please arrange clinical practicals in India unitil they go back@PMOIndia @narendramodi@MoHFW_INDIA #takeUsBackToChina #SaveIndianStudentsOfChina pic.twitter.com/OW9c9bGymw
— FMGPA (@FMGPA2) April 17, 2022
Students want an ROI on their education
Student protests and demonstrations to return to campus stems from concerns that their degrees will not be recognised under a fully online education.
India’s National Medical Commission had cautioned Indian students to do adequate checks before choosing to pursue medical education in China amid COVID-19-related travel restrictions.
The council, which regulates medical education and medical professionals in India, said it does not recognise or approve fully online medical courses.
One Twitter user said, “High chances of our medical degree to be invalid due to lack of practical and clinical observation. Pls. help us return to China. We are ready to abide by the rules put forward by the Chinese govt (sic).”
The reopening of China’s borders would help them avoid wasting years of education and tuition fees.
This is not the first Twitter campaign by Indian students. They previously organised a Twitter campaign on Feb. 13, 2022 to facilitate their return to China.