China has given the green light for some students in Sri Lanka to return to the country to resume their studies after a two year gap, Sri Lankan officials said on Thursday.
A number of countries, including India, have called on China to allow thousands of students still stranded abroad to return to continue their studies. Indian students, as yet, have not been told when they can return.
China has, however, appeared to have begun to allow small groups of students from other countries, including South Korea and Pakistan, to return.
Sri Lanka has now joined that list. The Sri Lankan Embassy in China said in a statement on Thursday that the Chinese Embassy in Colombo had “finalised two groups of students to return to China”.
A statement said “additional students are being processed to return to China” while Colombo would continue efforts “to enable all students to return to their studies.”
India accounts for among the highest number of foreign students in China with more than 20,000 enrolled in Chinese universities, mostly in medical colleges.
Students who were in India during their winter holidays or had returned to India in January 2020 after the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan have been waiting more than two years to return.
Chinese authorities told Indian officials in February that they are working on an “early return” for the thousands of Indian medical students but they have not, however, offered a timetable of when that might occur.
The Indian Embassy in Beijing said then that the “Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China has assured the Embassy that they are cognizant of the welfare of all foreign students, including Indian students, and have also conveyed that they will work on their early return to China in a coordinated manner and will continue contact with the Embassy on this matter.” The Embassy said it “has been continuously highlighting these issues with the relevant Chinese authorities in the last two years.”