More Chinese students experience unwarranted interrogation, harassment, deportation at U.S. border

2024-01-30 Editor : Zhao Li ECNS App Download

(ECNS) -- Recent incidents of some Chinese international students with valid documents being harassed, interrogated, and deported by U.S. authorities suggest that such unlawful behavior has only worsened, leaving the situation for Chinese international students in the U.S. far from improved.

A Chinese student surnamed Li, who graduated from a top-tier Chinese university, said that in January 2024, she traveled to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Maryland. Upon arriving at Washington Dulles International Airport, she was greeted by rude and unreasonable U.S. law enforcement officers and subjected to prolonged questioning in the secure interview room -- a "small dark room. 

The officers forcefully examined Li's personal belongings, including her phone and computer, denied her request to contact the Chinese consulate, and repeatedly inquired about her party membership status, academic background, and mentor details.

Li also said that U.S. law enforcement officers openly attempted to coerce her into providing undisclosed information about the Chinese government and information about individuals working for the Chinese government in the U.S. They sought to make her believe that her cooperation with them would lead to her release. After Li refused, the U.S. authorities, having found no supporting evidence, decided to ban her from entering the country for five years, revoked her valid visa, and deported her. The law enforcement officers even brazenly stated, "We don't care about your research; blame it on being Chinese—we don't trust you.", a website for overseas Chinese, previously reported similar cases in August 2023.

Preliminary statistics indicate that at least eight Chinese international students with valid documents have been harassed, interrogated, and deported by U.S. authorities at Washington Dulles Airport since late November 2023.

The presidents of China and the U.S. reached significant consensus on promoting cultural exchange and educational cooperation during their summit in San Francisco in 2023. The U.S. side has repeatedly claimed that it supports people-to-people exchanges and welcomes Chinese students. However, such incidents mentioned above reveal a clear disparity between talk and action of the U.S., experts on diplomatic issues said.

Despite claiming to be "open, inclusive, and supportive of academic freedom," some in the U.S. choose to weaponize academic research and overstretch the concept of "national security" to target Chinese students, violating the legitimate rights and basic human rights of Chinese citizens.

Experts say that as a result, the U.S. behavior will create a "chilling effect" domestically and internationally, which hurts its own reputation and ultimately benefits no one. Professional overseas education service providers also caution Chinese students intending to study in the U.S. to carefully assess the risks involved before making their decisions.

The Chinese Embassy in the United States issued a statement on Monday, reminding students planning to study in the U.S. to carefully consider their choice of entering the country through Washington Dulles International Airport, and to take extra caution when entering the U.S. If stopped by U.S. border law enforcement officers, students are advised to remain calm, and rationally respond. If treated unfairly, they may record the details of the officials who questioned them, double check the documents they have to sign and ask for copies so that necessary evidence can be obtained and used to file a complaint on the official website of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or they could seek assistance from the Chinese Embassy in the U.S.

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