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Acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf announced Wednesday that over 1,000 visas of Chinese nationals would be blocked to "prevent them from stealing sensitive research."
In a speech given in Washington, Wolf regurgitated U.S. allegations of China's unjust business practices, industrial espionage, attempts to steal coronavirus research, and abuse of student visas to exploit American academia.
"We are blocking visas for certain Chinese graduate students and researchers with ties to China's military fusion strategy to prevent them from stealing and otherwise appropriating sensitive research," he said.
A State Department spokeswoman said the visa action was being taken under Presidential Proclamation 10043 announced on May 29 as part of the United States' response to the situation in Hong Kong.
Some 360,000 Chinese students study in U.S. universities, generating $14 billion in revenue through tuition fees and other expenses. However, U.S. officials claim the visa restrictions only affect a small portion of those students.
Early Wednesday, dozens of Chinese students enrolled in U.S. universities received email notices from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and other consular offices in China, informing them that their visas had been canceled.
The majority of the barred students specialize in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, and many obtained bachelor's degrees at Chinese universities with links to the People's Liberation Army.
Over 60 students studying in the U.S. on F-1 visas found out through a WeChat room that they would have to apply for new visas if they wanted to continue their studies in the United States.
While the State Department spokeswoman said, "We continue to welcome legitimate students and scholars from China who do not further the Chinese Communist Party's goal of military dominance," China affirmed in June after the proclamation was announced, that it resolutely opposed any U.S. move to restrict Chinese students from studying in the United States and urged Washington to do more to enhance mutual exchanges and understanding.
China-U.S. relations have sunk to historic lows as President Trump has made "getting tough on China" a crucial part of his re-election campaign; his administration has, in recent months implemented numerous sanctions, restrictions, lawsuits, and prohibitions on Chinese officials, companies, products, and now, students.