‘Don’t come this year or the next,’ Chinese students in Australia say, citing deteriorating environment for Asians amid pandemic
Published: Jan 19, 2021 11:21 PM

Graduates are seen at the campus of University of Sydney, Australia, June 5, 2019. File Photo: Xinhua

While expressing regret at their decision to study in Australia, some dozen of Chinese students in Australia reached by the Global Times on Tuesday collectively suggested Chinese applicants eye for other destinations, telling them it's better they not come to the country this year or the next considering various factors including Australian restrictions on visas and travel and the anti-China vibes amid the escalating COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of the Chinese students in Australia also are packing their luggage to leave the country as Dailymail cited new data on Tuesday that Australia's dwindling number of foreign students are leaving the country in droves with Chinese students leading the pack.

The report said, in December 2020, almost a quarter of all overseas departures from Australia were students on temporary visas leaving the country, new Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show. 

Many students have not been able to come back to Australia since the nation severely restricted inward travel on March 20. 

Almost a fifth of all departures, 18.7 percent, were Chinese with 9,300 travelling out of the country, said the report.

The international education sector is shrinking due of prolonged travel bans launched in 2020, before which the sector had experienced five years of double-digit growth in Australia. 

Some of the students explained why they decided to leave Australia and why they suggested applicants who plan to study overseas not go to Australia with the Global Times on Tuesday.

A student surnamed Li, who enrolled in the University of Sydney last year, said a journey in 2016 in Australia impressed him with an image of "perceived pleasant liberal atmosphere and the friendliness of local people" and encouraged him to choose an Australian school.

However, he and his fellows "clearly felt an increase in hostility toward Chinese students in the country."

Another student of the University of Sydney surnamed Chen said their movements basically are limited in local Chinese community. "Now racial discrimination has been very severe. Obviously I feel the malice of the receptionist of a store towards Asians when buying things yesterday," Chen said.

He noted that he was nearly beaten up by racists in Sydney some days ago, so he put a baseball bat in the back seat of his car.

"From last year I have been asked by several graduates whether they should apply to Australian universities as the schools are in lower access threshold and cost less than those in the US and the UK, but I told them all to think twice before making the decision," Chen said.

Li also said he told the applicants "it's better not come here for study this year or the next."

A student surnamed Xu of the University of Melbourne told the Global Times that rents in urban district of Melbourne have gone down by about a third on average because no one wants to come. 

The students have bought tickets at a very high price to fly back home next month.

Not only because of the travel restrictions and anti-China vibes, but also due to the less competiveness and value of Australian schools in China in recent years, the dozen students don't suggest applicants study in Australia.

Given a spike in racial discrimination against Chinese people amid the COVID-19 pandemic, China issued a travel and study alert to Australia in 2020, which could also exert disadvantageous influence over the value of the Australian academic degree when the students hunt for jobs in China after graduation, they said.

The worsening bilateral ties should also discourage applicants to choose Australian schools, the students said.

From the politicized calls for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 and claims earlier this year that Chinese spies have penetrated Australian communities and universities, to the recent interference in China's Hong Kong affairs, a joint defense pact with Japan targeting China, and Australian prime minister's tough denial that Australia acted at the behest of the US in crafting its foreign policy, which poisoned bilateral relations, Australia's erroneous China policy has continuously worsened bilateral ties.

Some students encouraged the applicants to switch to Europe, Singapore, Japan, China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) or the Macao SAR for their further studies.

In addition, the students said they heard Chinese PhD candidates faced abnormal delays in obtaining  Australian  visas. 

Many PhD candidates who have received an offer from Australian schools have been waiting for their visas for over four months, and some even waited for more than a year, the Global Times learned.