Beijing reportedly issues safety warning to Chinese students in Australia

By on
University of NSW WealthInsider, University of Sydney Reuters
The campus of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, August 4, 2016. Reuters/Jason Reed

The Chinese embassy has issued a safety warning for Chinese students living in Australia. The advisory pertains to fears in Canberra of economic retaliation following a spike in political tension between the two nations.

The Age reports that the Chinese embassy also provided emergency assistance contact numbers. China’s Ministry of Education has supposedly warned of cases of violations of personal and property-related safeties of Chinese students studying here. The official advisory states that students studying in Australia are advised to maintain vigilance.

The warning was issued on the same day new Liberal senator Jim Molan’s maiden speech to parliament was reported. It also follows a reported attack on a Chinese student in October, as well as concerns from the Chinese embassy in Australia about new laws targeting foreign influence.

University of Sydney vice-chancellor Michael Spence reacted to the safety warning by saying that the university takes the welfare of students "very seriously.” He added that it has services and networks to support the students.

"Good relationships between China and Australia are important to the future of Australia including to our higher education sector, for more than financial reasons," The Age reports him as saying.

Spence added that universities need to have the ability to allow academics to "pursue their research freely across borders.” There have been claims that Beijing interferes in Australian teaching programs through pressure brought by some organisations.

Universities have been criticised for being too dependent on China for overseas students. Charles Sturt University’s Clive Hamilton said that uni vice-chancellors must admit that they have become over-dependent in their "pursuit of the glitter of Chinese gold.”

Associate professor at La Trobe University James Leibold said that Australian universities depend too heavily on income from Chinese students. If Beijing decides to take out both international students and tourism, the decision is expected to have a huge impact to the Australian economy.

The chair of the Group of Eight universities, Professor Ian Jacobs confirmed that the largest demand from foreign students is currently coming from China. But Jacobs maintained that domestic campuses are safer than just about anywhere in the world, reports the Financial Review.

As for claims of being over-dependent on China, Jacobs said that the focus will probably change as time passes. “Demand for Australian education from India is growing- we will respond to that because it is a great opportunity for Australia to have an impact,” he said.