Visas for certain Chinese citizens blocked “to prevent them from stealing and otherwise appropriating sensitive research,” a top US security official says.
The United States has revoked more than 1,000 visas of Chinese nationals as of September 8, as part of the Trump administration’s push to block entry of students and researchers from China believed to have links to the Chinese military.
“We continue to welcome legitimate students and scholars from China who do not further the Chinese Communist Party’s goals of military dominance,” a State Department spokesperson said on Wednesday.
Earlier, in a speech in Washington on Wednesday, Chad Wolf, the acting head of the US Department of Homeland Security repeated US charges of unjust business practices and industrial espionage by China, including attempts to steal coronavirus research, and accused it of abusing student visas to exploit American academia.
“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.
Wolf said the United States was also “preventing goods produced from slave labour from entering our markets, demanding that China respect the inherent dignity of each human being,” an apparent reference to alleged abuses of Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur region.
Links to the Chinese military suspected
Some Chinese students enrolled in US universities said they received emailed notices from the US embassy in Beijing or US consulates in China on Wednesday informing them that their visas had been cancelled.
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.
Many in the chatroom said they were majoring in subjects such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Some said they were postgraduates who obtained bachelor’s degrees at Chinese universities with links to the People’s Liberation Army.
In late May, sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters Washington was planning to cancel the visas of thousands of Chinese graduate students believed to have links to China’s military.
US Customs and Border Protection officials have prepared orders to block imports of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over accusations of forced labour, though a formal announcement has been delayed.
On Tuesday, the US accused Beijing of fearing a free media as it denounced Beijing’s new restrictions on the international press after two Australian journalists fled China under diplomatic protection, fearing arrest.
Sino-US relations have sunk to historic lows with the world’s two biggest economies clashing over issues ranging from trade and human rights to Hong Kong and the coronavirus.
US President Donald Trump, who had touted friendly ties with Chinese President Xi Jinping as he sought to make good on promises to rebalance a massive trade deficit, has made getting tough on China a key part of his campaign for re-election on November 3. He has accused his Democratic opponent Joe Biden, who leads in most opinion polls, of being soft toward Beijing.