Chinese Premier Li Keqiang vows to ease COVID-related travel restrictions and facilitate the return of overseas students


Li’s comments to allow students to return are seen as significant as around five lakh foreign students studying at Chinese universities, including more than 23,000 Indians, have been stranded in their respective countries over the past two years due to the bans. of COVID visa in China.

Premier Li Keqiang participated in a special virtual dialogue with global business leaders hosted by the World Economic Forum on Tuesday. Twitter/ @CGMeifangZhang

Beijing: As the strictly implemented Zero COVID policy began to bite the Chinese economy, Premier Li Keqiang vowed to ease restrictions on international travel in an orderly manner, including facilitating the return of thousands of stranded foreign students to join Chinese universities.

Li’s comments to allow students to return are seen as significant as around five lakh foreign students studying at Chinese universities, including more than 23,000 Indians, have been stranded in their respective countries over the past two years due to bans. of COVID visa in China.

China will make its COVID control measures more targeted and better calibrated with the aim of ensuring safety against COVID infections, including steadily improving visa and COVID testing policies, and resuming and further increasing international passenger flights in an orderly manner, Chinese Premier Li said.

All international students can return to China to continue their studies if they wish, and overseas trade and business activities and cross-border travel for labor services will be advanced in an orderly manner, Li said. during a special virtual dialogue with global business leaders hosted by Tuesday at the World Economic Forum.

It will promote personnel flows, exchanges and cooperation between China and the world,” he said in an official press release.

It is the first time that a comment on the relaxation of international travel has been made at the top of the Chinese leadership.

Under the zero COVID policy, China has drastically reduced international flight connectivity over the past two years to isolate itself from the coronavirus which first surfaced in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. .

China is currently processing the list of hundreds of Indian students wishing to return to the country to join their colleges.

More than 23,000 Indian students who mainly study medicine are said to be stranded at home due to COVID visa restrictions. India submitted a list of several hundred students after China asked for the names of those who wished to return immediately to continue their studies.

Some stranded students from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Russia and several other countries have started arriving on charter flights in recent weeks.

China also allows flights from different countries but not yet from India. According to reports, the two countries are in talks to restore limited flights between the two countries.

Li’s promise to open up China came as China’s economy was hit hard by the zero-COVID policy, leading to prolonged shutdowns of major cities, damaging businesses and industrial supply chains.

The world’s second-largest economy contracted sharply in the second quarter, plunging 0.4%, the lowest in two years, official data showed on July 15.

This is the lowest growth rate since China’s economy shrank 6.8% in the first quarter of 2020 after the coronavirus that surfaced in Wuhan and then spread around the world shut down most regions of the country.

The slowing economy comes ahead of the key congress of China’s ruling Communist Party, once every five years, which is expected to be held shortly, and which is widely expected to approve an unprecedented third term for President Xi Jinping.

Xi, 68, will be the only Chinese leader after party founder Mao Zedong to stay in power for more than two to five years and possibly for life.

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