Now entering its third year, China’s unrelenting international travel ban has locked out nearly half a million international students since the border shutdown began in March 2020. As all eyes are set on Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics, Pakistani students are rallying behind the hashtag #PMSavePakStudentsOfChina on Twitter as part of their ongoing fight to return to universities in China. The hashtag went viral this week and was trending on Pakistani Twitter on Feb. 2, 2022.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived on Thursday in China’s capital city for a four-day visit, which includes attending the opening ceremony for the world’s biggest winter sports event on Feb. 4, 2022. Students in Pakistan are appealing for the prime minister to leverage his presence in China to talk about the possibility of an imminent return.
“Pakistani students studying in China have been waiting to go back. China has its own policy, but your voice is heard in Chinese power corridors,” writes international investment banker Mir Mohammad Alikhan in a Twitter post. “Please ask the Chinese Premier on your visit to allow them back into China.”
“There are currently 6,000 Pakistani students affected by such travel bans so these issues need to be discussed by government bodies,” claims Yasir Iqbal, a PhD candidate at Tianjin University.
Like many other international students who are still stuck offshore, Pakistani students — most of whom are studying science-based courses — attending classes online comes with a set of challenges that diminish their overall learning experience. The situation is even more pressing for medical students, whose degrees will not be recognised for professional practice in the absence of hands-on practical work.
Since China’s travel ban came into effect, thousands of international students worldwide have taken to social media to express their frustrations through hashtags such as #TakeUsBacktoChina and #TakeUsBacktoSchool. Some have given up hope of ever returning to universities in China and are transferring to more travel-friendly countries. Most, however, do not have any other recourse but to wait for China’s borders to reopen.