Coronavirus: Beijing offers to fly Chinese students home from the US but would it rather they declined?

08-Apr-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Chinese students could be flown home from coronavirus hotspots such as the United States but will have to pay their own expenses, amid efforts by Beijing to persuade some to remain overseas rather than risk bringing the infection with them.

A statement posted on the website of China’s Washington embassy on Monday said that the Chinese government was aware that many school and university students had encountered difficulties in travelling back to China and was taking steps to arrange charter flights for those who needed to return urgently.

With the initial coronavirus outbreak appearing to have been largely contained in mainland China, some Chinese students have travelled home despite soaring air ticket prices and the requirement that those who have been overseas enter quarantine.

China has drastically cut flights to try to prevent people who arrive from abroad importing the coronavirus. Photo: AFP

China has drastically cut flights to try to prevent people who arrive from abroad importing the coronavirus. Photo: AFP

Students brought back on charter flights would still need to pay for the ticket and the costs of the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival in China.

More than 1.6 million Chinese are studying overseas, including about 410,000 in the US. At least 1.42 million Chinese students remained overseas, vice foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu said on Thursday.

Having initially boasted of its success in stopping the virus, Beijing has become notably cautious in recent weeks about welcoming overseas students back home, especially with imported cases continuing to rise.

China’s foreign ministry and its overseas missions have urged students considering travelling home to exercise caution. The embassy in the US issued a notice on Friday speaking highly of the American medical system and its response to the pandemic, in a marked departure from Beijing’s narrative, which has included pinning the blame for the pandemic on the United States.

Friday’s embassy notice also dismissed rumours that Chinese students had been targeted because of the coronavirus during the closures of universities, and pledged help if students had trouble communicating with universities about campus accommodation.

Ma said that most overseas students had heeded his government’s advice and chosen not to go back to China, but an online survey late last month that was cited by Caixin magazine on Saturday showed nearly 60 per cent of Chinese students in the US wanted to return home.

Most of the 4,000 students polled said they were unable to make the trip because of concerns about contracting the coronavirus during the journey and air fares that had more than doubled recently. Both China and the US have drastically cut back long-haul international flights.

Students under 18 years of age who want to return to China are required by the embassy to register online.

The initial evacuation plan announced on Monday proposed to prioritise school-age children whose parents were not in the US with them. The proposed arrangement appeared to include students from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.



Category: China

Print This Post