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Chinese Students Protest US Visa Policies - 2002-08-13

Around 50 Chinese students have staged a protest outside the U.S. embassy in Beijing after being denied visas to study in the United States. The students say American visa policies are unfair and arbitrary.

Liu Na says she studied hard for years to gain admission to the University of Maryland this autumn.

Ms. Liu, a student at the prestigious Qinghua University School of Public Management in Beijing, says she learned English, performed well on tests for graduate school, and overcame many obstacles to fulfill her dream of studying in the United States.

But U.S. embassy visa officials have twice refused to give her a visa, she says.

Standing together with dozens of other students in a peaceful protest outside the U.S. embassy Tuesday, Ms. Liu complains that visa officers spend just three minutes or less on each student's application. She says that is not enough time to evaluate each case properly. She does not know why she was rejected, but now it will be too late for her and many other students to enroll for the school term that will begin in a few weeks.

Tuesday's protest outside the embassy is the third by students in less than two weeks. Police gathered around the demonstrators, but did not try to disperse them. The event was unusual because authorities normally crack down quickly on public protests. But the demonstration was not directed at the Chinese government, and therefore seen as relatively harmless.

One of the protest organizers identifies himself only as Mr. Yue. He says he was admitted to the University of Southern California, but was rejected twice by U.S. visa officers.

Mr. Yue says a large number of Chinese students with scholarships from American universities have been refused visas. He complains that the U.S. visa policy breeds anti-American resentment among the young Chinese most likely to shape the country's future.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing does not release statistics on Chinese visa applications or rejections. An embassy spokesman Tuesday says he is looking into the students' complaints.

Universities in the United States have complained in recent years about problems that foreign students face in getting visas.

The American government tightened immigration controls following the September 11 terrorist attacks last year.

More students go to the United States from China than from any other country. More than 60,000 Chinese students currently study at American universities.