Xinhua News Agency

U.S. backs down in visas row

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 May, 2012, 12:00am

The US has backed down on new visa requirements for instructors at China's premier overseas cultural institution, ending a week of deportation fears and averting another row between Beijing and Washington.

Chinese teachers working for the Chinese-government-sponsored Confucius Institute (CI) in the US under J-1 visas - which are given to people participating in work- and study-based exchange programmes - had earlier been told that they were violating the rules by teaching in primary and secondary schools, rather than at university level.

They were told they must leave by the end of next month. About 51 of the 600 Chinese instructors working with the CI in the US were estimated to have been affected.

Some critics in China had complained that the directive was discriminatory against the CI, saying other countries' cultural institutions in the US were not affected.

A revision of the policy guidance issued by the US State Department now says the accreditation given to 81 CI branches in the US is sufficient.

Instructors 'are not required to depart the United States at the end of this academic year'.

The Chinese embassy in Washington said the new US directive was the result of diplomatic negotiations, with the State Department promising to take 'a flexible attitude' in dealing with the instructors' visa problem, Xinhua reported.

The new directive, issued on Friday in Washington, was a revised statement of a May 17 directive that sparked the deportation concerns, a statement on the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs website said.

'The original directive that we issued a couple of days ago was, frankly, sloppy and not complete,' State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. 'That's what caused all this confusion. So we now have a new directive.

'We regret the fact that the first notice was not our best work - let's put it that way.'

Xu Lin , director of China's Office of Chinese Language Council International, which supervises the CI, welcomed the new directive yesterday, describing it as a 'quick correction', Xinhua said.

'The Confucius Institute is a new organisation ... which has some things that need to improve,' Xu told Xinhua. 'We could put up with different opinions from different people [in the US], but we can't tolerant emotional abuse. The May 17 directive damaged the feelings of people from the two countries, but it was corrected very quickly.'

The Chinese embassy's minister counsellor, Fang Maotian said on Friday that the embassy had raised the issue with the State Department as soon as the old directive was issued, and the embassy's education affairs official and their counterparts from the State Department held a meeting on Thursday.