The US government has confirmed that it revoked the visas of more than 1,000 Chinese nationals – including students and researchers – citing concerns over possible links to the Chinese military.
Students in China say they received emails from the local US Embassy telling them that their visas had been revoked as “information has come to light that you may be inadmissible to the US and ineligible to receive a visa”.
“The actions of China may be unabating, but they are not unthwartable”
They were further told that they would need to “reappear before a US consulate officer to establish [their] eligibility for a visa before being permitted to apply for entry to the US.”
The US first announced measures against students and academics suspected of military links earlier this year. It has since become increasingly vocal about fears that students are being used to conduct espionage on US campuses, and several court cases are ongoing against individuals.
“China has leveraged every aspect of its country including its economy, its military, and its diplomatic power, demonstrating a rejection of western liberal democracy and continually renewing its commitment to remake the world order in its own authoritarian image,” said Department of Homeland Security acting secretary, Chad Wolf.
“From intellectual property theft and stealing trade secrets that rob from American innovators… to abusing student visas to exploit American academia, the actions of China may be unabating, but they are not unthwartable.”
He added that visas for certain graduate students and researchers “with ties to China’s military fusion strategy” would be blocked “to prevent them from stealing and otherwise appropriating sensitive research”.
Many Chinese schools and universities have military links under the “military-civil fusion strategy”, which the government introduced several years ago.
On the surface, its basic idea is to encourage research which benefits the military but also has civil-commercial application (such as AI), which has blurred the line as to the affiliations of researchers.
A document is circulating on social media and news sites in China that purportedly shows the details of some of those who had their visas revoked.
Many have graduated from institutions such as Harbin Institute of Technology and other so-called “Seven Sons of National Defence”, which are a group of universities recognised as having deep ties with the military.
However, others have also graduated from universities abroad and even in the US itself, leading some to suspect that the high schools they attended may be a factor. Many on the list also had family who were Party members, although most did not hold membership themselves.