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2019-09-02 11:08:51

A group of nine Arizona State University students returning from China to begin the fall semester were denied entry to the United States upon arrival and asked to return to their home country, according to a senior university official.

In a letter to the relevant American authorities, the school’s president, Michael M. Crow, said he was writing to express “serious concern” over the actions taken against the Chinese undergraduate students by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at Los Angeles International Airport. He also said the students were told to pay for their own return tickets or face five-year bans on re-entering the country.

“In each case, the students were in possession of all needed documentation to enter the U.S. yet they were refused entry at the airport,” Crow wrote in the letter, which is dated Aug. 29.

Citing a statement from the university, the Arizona Republic newspaper reported Friday that the students were detained “over the last week.” The university also denied another media report alleging that the students had been barred from entering the U.S. due to academic fraud, adding that customs officials have given “no information on what has transpired.”

A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection told Arizona Republic that “the Chinese students were deemed inadmissible to the country based on information discovered during the CBP inspection,” citing the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act. He did not elaborate on any findings from the inspection.

On Aug. 23, a Harvard incoming freshman from Palestine was also denied entry on similar grounds. Ismail B. Ajjawi, a 17-year-old who had been living in Lebanon, was deported after also being “deemed inadmissible” to the U.S. The teenager was questioned over his religious beliefs and his friends’ social media activity before being deported, according to the school’s official newspaper.

Another Chinese student was denied entry at the Detroit airport last week after arriving in the U.S. with a bulletproof vest in his luggage. In early June, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism had issued a travel advisory for Chinese citizens planning to visit the U.S., citing “frequent shootings, robberies, and theft” as safety risks. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., issued a joint statement warning Chinese citizens of “harassment” in the form of interrogation by U.S. immigration authorities.

The 363,341 Chinese students enrolled at U.S. colleges during the 2017-2018 academic year accounted for one-third of all international students in the country at the time, according to the Institute of International Education, a New York-based nonprofit. However, earlier this year many Chinese students claimed they had encountered difficulties with their visa renewals after returning to China at the end of 2018 for winter vacation, and have since faced drawn-out and often opaque “administrative processing.”

In early June, China’s Ministry of Education warned its students and scholars planning to study in the U.S. about unexplained delays or outright rejections during the visa application process. A survey in May by China’s largest education consultancy showed that the number of students ranking the U.S. as their top choice for studying abroad had dropped to 43% from 49% in 2017. Many young Chinese now prefer other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Canada, as destinations for their overseas studies, according to the survey.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: E+/VCG)