President Donald Trump issued a proclamation on Friday prohibiting entry to the U.S. for many students and researchers from China.
The proclamation bans graduate students and researchers with ties to the Chinese government from using student visas to enter the country. The president announced the move in a short briefing with the press on Friday, insisting that it would help stop Chinese students in the U.S. from spying for their country and potentially stealing intellectual property.
“For years, the government of China has conducted illicit espionage to steal our industrial secrets, of which there are many,” Trump told reporters gathered in the Rose Garden of the White House. “Today I will issue a proclamation to better secure our nation’s vital university research, and to suspend the entry of certain foreign nationals from China, who we have identified as potential security risks.”
The proclamation is likely to affect a relatively small portion of the approximately 360,000 Chinese students in the U.S. due to several exemptions. It does not apply to undergraduates, instead focusing on graduate students and researchers with direct ties to the Chinese military. It also does not apply to permanent residents of the U.S. or their spouses, or those whose entry the administration deems “in the national interest.”
While the proclamation comes with limitations, American universities are still likely to feel the impact of lost tuition from thousands of students, along with a prohibition on potentially qualified researchers from China. The proclamation takes effect on June 1.
Newsweek reached out to the Universities Research Association for comment. This article will be updated with any response.
The measure was one of several that Trump made on Friday in apparent retaliation for China’s recent moves to tighten control over Hong Kong. The Chinese government passed a controversial new security law on Thursday, making it easier to punish Hong Kong residents who advocate for democracy or speak out against the government.
Hong Kong’s unique status as a “special administrative region” of China had meant that residents of the former British colony were afforded many freedoms that those on mainland China lacked. The region also enjoyed a special trade relationship with the U.S., which Trump vowed to end on Friday.
“China has replaced its promised formula for ‘one country, two systems’ with ‘one country, one system,'” Trump said. “Therefore I am directing my administration to begin the process of eliminating policy exemptions that give Hong Kong different and special treatment.”
Trump also announced that he was “terminating” the U.S. relationship with the World Health Organization, insisting that China has “total control” over the global health authority. He had temporarily suspended funding to the organization last month.
The president has heavily promoted the notion that the Chinese government is responsible for the U.S. becoming the global leader in coronavirus cases and deaths. Before the pandemic began, Trump publicly praised China’s early response to the virus, thanking them for their “transparency” in a tweet on January 24.