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European Media Expose “Loyalty Contracts” for Chinese Students Studying Abroad

A joint investigation by Deutsche Welle and the German media outlet CORRECTIV reported that Chinese students studying in Germany are being closely monitored by the Chinese authorities. Those who receive scholarships from the China Scholarship Council (CSC) are required to sign an agreement and report to the Chinese embassy. Those who violate the agreement will be punished. According to the report, several German universities have already established cooperation with the CSC, and one Chinese student who signed the agreement said he was afraid to participate in demonstrations in Germany, while other Chinese students also expressed fear of surveillance by the Chinese authorities.

The China Scholarship Council is a unit directly under the administration of the Chinese Ministry of Education and is responsible for organizing, funding and managing Chinese citizens studying abroad and foreign citizens studying in China. The majority of Chinese students currently studying abroad with government support are receiving  scholarships provided by the CSC, which covers the study and living expenses of Chinese students admitted to overseas universities. Overseas institutions that cooperate with the CSC accept Chinese students with government scholarships, and all costs are covered by the Chinese side, without taking away from the foreign school’s own research funds. Therefore, this kind of cooperation is welcomed by overseas institutions, and some of them even provide special quotas for Chinese students with government scholarships. In recent years, the students with government scholarships have tended to be in the fields of science and technology, and some European institutions have found that some Chinese students have military backgrounds, which has increased the suspicion that European countries have toward Chinese students.

Besides Germany, countries such as Sweden have also discovered agreements between Chinese students and the CSC, and some universities have even terminated their cooperation agreements with China as a result. The agreements signed between the students and the Chinese authorities mainly stipulate that the students must return to China to serve for two years after graduation, that the scholarship recipients must have two Chinese citizens as guarantors, that the guarantors who are permanent residents of China should take a single trip abroad not exceeding three months, and that the spouse should not act as a guarantor. If the scholar violates the agreement, the guarantors are jointly and severally liable.

The agreement also stipulates that, during the period of study, the signatory “shall not engage in any activities detrimental to the interests and security of the motherland,” “shall obey the guidance and management of the embassy or consulate abroad during the period of study,” and “shall report regularly on the progress of study and research.” The agreement is not terminated until the signatory returns to China after two years of service.

The agreement requires the scholar not to interrupt his or her studies without cause, or the sponsor, who lives in China, will be liable for the compensation. The agreement came to light earlier this year when a Chinese student at Lund University in Sweden was advised to discontinue his studies due to poor academic performance. The student was concerned that discontinuing his studies would cause his family trouble because of the agreement he had signed with the Chinese authorities. Following reports in the Swedish media, leading universities such as Lund University and Uppsala University in Sweden said that, following reports in the Swedish media, in the future they would stop cooperating with the CSC.

Source: Voice of America, March 18, 2023