German Journalism Student in China Denied Visa

August 13, 2018

A German journalism student at Tsinghua University was denied a new visa to stay in China, likely, he believes, because he filmed a documentary on human rights lawyers as an assignment for a class. The student, David Missal, said that he was detained for three hours by police in May while shooting footage for the documentary, an experience he described on his blog.

Missal said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed that authorities with China’s Exit and Entry Administration told him his application to renew his visa was being denied “because I did some activities that weren’t covered by a student visa. I asked them, ‘What kinds of activities did I do?’ They said, ‘You know by yourself.’”

“I just can guess I don’t really know,” Missal said of the reason. “I guess it’s because of the one homework assignment I did with human rights lawyers.” Human rights groups have documented a crackdown on China’s human rights lawyers that began in 2015.

Missal said he was given 10 days -- through this past Sunday -- to leave China. He was only one year into a two- to three-year master’s program in journalism at Tsinghua and had planned to stay two more years with the support of a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service, known by its German acronym DAAD. He hopes to enroll in a master’s in Chinese studies back in Germany and subsequently apply the DAAD scholarship toward an exchange year in Taiwan.

"I think it's an interesting experience," Missal said Friday of his time at Tsinghua. "I really learned a lot during the last year. Although I need to leave now, and I'm upset that I need to leave -- I really like the country, so I would like to stay here -- to have this insight into how journalism is taught in China, and if you do things that cross the line, you can't do it anymore -- I think it's an experience I don't want to miss."

Tsinghua's media relations office did not respond to a request for comment. The international press center for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also did not respond to a request for comment.

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