A university program encouraging Chinese students to take international students home during the upcoming Spring Festival holidays has met with accusations of foreigner privilege on Chinese social media.
A screenshot of a WeChat post asking Chinese students to register for the program widely circulated on social media over the weekend. The post by the College of Humanities and Development Studies of China Agricultural University says the event provides an opportunity for Chinese and international students to communicate and encourages international students to be a cultural exchange bridge.
The program calls for participating Chinese students to take at least one international student home for a week during the Spring Festival. The international students are expected to live at the Chinese students’ home. The purpose is to help international students deepen their understanding of Chinese traditional culture by dinning, living and travelling with a Chinese student.
Several photos from previous years featuring international students visiting local families during Spring Festival were on the post.
The post appears to have been deleted from the college’s WeChat account.
The program has triggered heated debate online. Some netizens questioned the purpose of the event, claiming the university is being too good to international students and that international students should live in hotels instead of students’ home for safety concerns.
But many said the program is a normal activity that allows foreign students to experience Chinese culture, and Chinese students studying overseas were often invited home by their local classmates for Christmas.
“Drop your tinted glasses! We cannot deny all normal exchange between Chinese and foreign students just because of previous scandals. Letting foreigners understand Chinese culture and feel the care of the university is a good thing,” one netizen said.
Some netizens gave examples of the “wonderful experiences” they had when they were foreign students and were invited home by local students during Western festivals.
An employee with the college surnamed Shao said the university has not yet decided if the program will begin this year or in the future.
The program has received approval from authorities, but some netizens have spread rumours and maliciously slandered the university, Shao said.
Controversy over international students’ “privilege” in China has been under the spotlight after Shandong University reportedly allocated three “study buddies” for each international student in July. The university acknowledged it had set up a study buddy program but denied each international student would have three study buddies.