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Chinese Student Barred From Canada Over Espionage Concerns

The Federal Court of Canada has barred Chinese student Yuekang Li from entering the country, citing “potential espionage risk.” Li, born in 1998, obtained a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Beihang University, a Chinese university with strong ties to Chinese military, in 2020. In 2022 he completed a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at the U.S.A’s North Carolina University (via remote study due to COVID restrictions). After graduation, the U.S. rejected Li’s visa application. Li was subsequently admitted to a Ph.D. program at the University of Waterloo in Canada in April 2022.

Li’s application to the Canadian government for a student visa was rejected by Canadian immigration authorities after a lengthy background check, citing the potential for future espionage activities harmful to Canadian interests. Li applied for a judicial review from the Federal Court of Canada. The court supported the immigration authorities’ decision, emphasizing non-traditional espionage strategies of the Chinese government that make use of Chinese international students. The judge highlighted Li’s graduation from a university associated with the defense industry in China as well as the strategic importance of Li’s chosen field.

While lacking hard evidence that Li has been involved in espionage, the Canadian court’s decision takes into account the change of potential future activities by Li which could harm Canada’s interests. The court ruling underscores concerns in Canada about China’s use of students as an intelligence gathering mechanism.

Source: Voice of America, January 10, 2024