The Trump administration confirmed in a statement Wednesday that it is "blocking" many students from China from obtaining visas to America, specifically graduate students focusing on research in scientific and medical fields over fears they could steal sensitive research.
Citing the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Chad Wolf, Reuters reports:
“We are blocking visas for certain Chinese graduate students and researchers with ties to China’s military fusion strategy to prevent them from stealing and otherwise appropriating sensitive research,” he said in a speech in Washington.
This comes after longtime allegations that Beijing is seeking to obtain sensitive coronavirus data and research from American pharmaceutical companies, labs and academic institutions amid the global race for a vaccine.
In the past few years Chinese students have made up the largest contingent of visas issued to foreign graduate students and researchers. For example, DHS lists that for the 2018-2019 academic year, American universities had a whopping 272,470 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled.
It's as yet unclear how many students are currently banned from travel to the US under this latest DHS policy. But already students who completed their undergraduate programs in China at schools linked to the PLA Army are seeing their visas canceled.
Apparently some are just now finding out, as Reuters details:
Earlier, some Chinese students enrolled in U.S. universities said they received emailed notices from the U.S. embassy in Beijing or U.S. consulates in China on Wednesday informing them that their visas had been canceled.
Nearly 50 students holding F-1 academic visas including postgraduates and undergraduates said in a WeChat chatroom the notices stated they would have to apply for new visas if they wanted to travel to the United States.
Wolf's Wednesday announcement also referenced the Chinese communist government's alleged mass prison camps to 'reeducate' Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang province.
He asserted the US was also “preventing goods produced from slave labor from entering our markets, demanding that China respect the inherent dignity of each human being,” however didn't give further details.