As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on in major European countries and the US, a large number of Chinese students overseas are trapped in a plight. With their classes suspended and multiple pressures, including a high risk of being infected, increasing living costs, mounting psychological pressure and social discrimination from time to time, some of them are eager to go back to China. However, their return has become difficult given the shattered global commercial aviation system.
Based on the epidemic situation at that time, Chinese embassies and consulates in various countries encouraged Chinese students to stay where they were and suggested overseas Chinese stay at home as much as possible, because it was easier to ensure personal safety. Until today, we still believe such suggestions deserve serious attention. As long as conditions are allowed, sheltering in place where you are is one of the best options.
But the situation is changing rapidly from week to week. More and more European countries and the US have failed to bring the epidemic under control, and international students are facing more difficulties than local Chinese overseas. If some of them strongly desire to return, the country should offer help.
These students are all Chinese children and may be those of our neighbors. Their parents are very anxious, and we should sympathize with what they are going through. Take US cities such as New York City where Chinese students are concentrated. The epidemic risks there are the highest. It’s the responsibility of the Chinese government to provide assistance and protection to those students at this special time.
We recommend that China send more chartered flights to pick up Chinese students overseas eager to return to the country and provide help to their families. As China has formed its system of prevention and China’s measures to prevent imported cases have become mature, using chartered flights to bring them back will not affect our domestic situation. It will even reduce the risks caused by the students’ separate journeys.
Chartered flights are the most convenient way for China to carry out thorough management. The high level of prevention and control can minimize the risk of infection for the students on their way home. Once they return to China, they will immediately receive medical attention and be quarantined. During this period, we can reduce the risk of infecting Chinese society to zero. This is much better than letting them go back to China separately.
These students will pay for the tickets of the flight. They should pay for accommodation costs during their quarantine as well, which is acceptable to them. This is even cheaper than returning to China by themselves. If they come back separately, some will inevitably be infected. Since they have normally no medical insurance in China, their families will have to pay for their treatment.
Thus, sending chartered flights will not impose risks on China’s domestic prevention, nor will it increase China’s economic burden. Chinese airlines and hotels will also not suffer economic loss.
After China’s epidemic prevention system becomes mature, it will have global appeal and then turn into economic benefits. This is worth exploring.
More importantly, most overseas Chinese students will go back to the country after finishing their studies. This epidemic will leave them unforgettable memories and shape their understanding of such important notions as life and nation. When they are helpless, their country is more useful than whatever education they have. China should try its best to help the students from feeling abandoned.
China evacuated its nationals from the Middle East and Pacific islands, and technical obstacles could be overcome if China sends chartered flights to bring back overseas Chinese students.