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Universities teaching Chinese students remotely need to scale the Great Firewall

Chinese students
REUTERS/Aly Song
Beyond the firewall.

Universities that have shifted to online platforms to teach their students during the coronavirus pandemic are facing unique risks in reaching one particular group.

The UN estimates that nearly 1 million Chinese students were enrolled at international universities in 2017, the latest year for which data are available. Many current and prospective students remain stuck in China because of the pandemic. As a result, universities are having to factor in something they might not have considered before: censorship and surveillance due to China’s internet controls.

Concerns about teaching students in China online—or anywhere, when the course material involves China—amplified after Beijing imposed a new vaguely worded national security law on Hong Kong in June that claims sweeping extraterritorial jurisdiction. A group of five professors who teach on China at US universities last week laid out recommendations for protecting students and faculty during online teaching, and warned the law “casts a long shadow over all China discourse.”

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