Dijkgraaf plans law to vet students in wake of China concerns

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Education minister Robbert Dijkgraaf has confirmed that he is considering tightening restrictions on Chinese students after universities said they were concerned about the security risks.

Dijkgraaf told the Financial Times he was preparing a Knowledge Security Screening Law to vet students applying for “sensitive technologies”. The risk assessment will cover all students from non-EU countries.

“In general, the targeted use of grant programmes to obtain high-quality knowledge and technology for the state is undesirable,” he said.

Several Dutch universities have expressed concern about the China Scholarship Council (CSC) programme, which funds the tuition of around 2,000 Chinese students in the Netherlands.

Many candidates come from Chinese universities with military connections, such as the Seven Sons of National Defence group. They are required to swear allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party, pledge to return to China within two years of completing their studies and must report to the Chinese embassy in the country where they study.

Maastricht university and Delft University of Technology no longer accept candidates from the Seven Sons universities, while Utrecht has stopped interviewing postgraduate applicants from China altogether. The latter has also criticised the low wages paid to Chinese PhD students.

Dijkgraaf insisted that there was no policy to “exclude Chinese students … or to discourage co-operation with Chinese institutes in sensitive fields”.

However, the Dutch government has come under pressure from the Biden administration to restrict technology exports to China.

Earlier this year the US, the Netherlands and Japan agreed a deal limiting the sale of machinery by Dutch semiconductor manufacturer ASML to Beijing. Details of the agreement were not made public for reasons of national security.

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