WASHINGTON: Tens of thousands of Chinese students studying overseas on government-backed scholarships are required to sign a document pledging loyalty to the ruling Communist Party, as well as putting up guarantors who could be forced to repay their funding should they break the agreement, before arriving at overseas universities, Radio Free Asia reported.
Sweden's Dagens Nyheter newspaper had reported on January 13 that 30 doctoral students arriving in the country had signed contracts pledging loyalty to their government while overseas, requiring them to serve China's interests during their stay.
A review of publicly available documents found evidence that this practice has been going on quietly for more than a decade, with several versions of the contract and related regulations freely available online, RFA reported.
"During your time studying abroad, you must hone your sense of responsibility and your ability to follow orders, and not engage in any activities that could harm your country's interests or national security," the contract states.
"You must consciously protect the honor of the motherland and of your school, and abide by both the laws of China and the country where you are studying," it says.
Students must also provide the names of two guarantors who countersign the document, in case a student fails to report to the local Chinese embassy or otherwise breaks the terms of the agreement, the documents revealed, RFA reported.
Anyone who tries to resign from their scholarship without authorization or who "behaves extremely badly," or who just disappears or moves to another country or school without authorization will trigger the repayment of around one third of their funding by their guarantors, they show.
China had said it would send 27,000 students to study overseas on public money for all of 2021, and that their scholarships were entirely conditional on their party loyalty, including a pledge to "come back and serve their country" on completion of their studies, according to another publicly available document, RFA reported.