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September 10, 2018

Barred Tsinghua Student Studying Under Registered Foreign NGO’s Scholarship Program

As reported by Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP), David Missal, a German citizen and journalism student at Tsinghua University in Beijing, was forced to leave China last month after authorities refused to renew his visa. Missal was studying at Tsinghua under a German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, DAAD) scholarship and had one year remaining under the scholarship. According to Ministry of Public Security information, DAAD has two registered foreign NGO representative offices in China, one in Beijing and one in Guangdong.

As quoted in HKFP, Missal said that Chinese Entry-Exit Administration officials told him his visa “would not be renewed as he was engaging in activities that were not covered by his student visa.” They further said that he “should know” what he he had done that caused him to lose his visa. Though Chinese authorities may not have told Missal directly why his visa was cancelled, an article in the state-affiliated Global Times strongly suggests it was indeed due to his research on human rights lawyers. The article went on to explain that the case was handled strictly according to Chinese law:

“For his journalism class, [Missal] reported on radical lawyers and families under investigation three years ago according to law. He then uploaded his homework to the internet. Chinese authorities canceled his visa and he was forced to leave the country before August 12 . . . Missal seems to have only learned a little from China. Perhaps he has never wanted to learn anything from here. His behavior and remarks showed he has neither understood the logic of Chinese politics and laws . . . China did nothing wrong in this case. It handled it in accordance with the law.”

Missal told The China NGO Project that DAAD made several attempts on his behalf to get his visa renewed, but ultimately were unable to do so. Missal had the sense that DAAD would have preferred that he had chosen a less sensitive topic, though they did not tell him so directly. Despite having to part from Tsinghua, Missal will still be able to complete the second year of his scholarship at Hong Kong University’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre.

Through its press office, DAAD stated that the case has not yet led to any repercussions or problems with its Chinese partners, and that there has been no contact between DAAD and either its Professional Supervisory Unit (the Ministry of Education) or the Public Security Bureau regarding the case. It also noted that “although bilateral relations are developing positively, fundamental differences remain, especially concerning individual freedom.”

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