`Visa row will harm US-China friendship`

The US State Department has ordered Chinese academics with visas that offer cultural and educational exchange programmes to leave the country.

Beijing: The US directive asking Chinese teachers, from a host of Confucius Institutes in America, to leave the country as the authorities say their appointment was violating the visa terms will harm China-US friendship, an institute official said on Thursday.

"The headquarters regrets the US directive as all of its centres around the world, including those on American campuses, were voluntarily requested by foreign partners, approved by the headquarters and jointly operated with Chinese colleges," state run Xinhua quoted the official as saying.

The teachers dispatched by the headquarters to the institutes were carefully selected and trained by both sides in an effort to help American elementary and secondary school students learn Mandarin and understand Chinese culture, the official said.

Confucius Institutes have been opened in more than 350 educational institutions in 106 countries.

With 81 institutes and 299 classrooms in 48 states, the US currently has the largest number of Confucius Institutes and Classrooms around the world.

The US order states that the teachers of institutes have been given J1 visas to teach in universities.

Any academics at university-based institutes who are teaching at the elementary- and secondary-school levels are violating the terms of their visas and must leave at the end of the current school term in June.

"They have been asked leave by next month and apply for fresh visas," state television CCTV reported.

The directive sent by the US Department of State said that after a preliminary review, it was determined that the institutes must obtain American accreditation in order to continue to accept foreign scholars and professors as teachers.

"Those Chinese teachers went to the US with friendliness toward the American people, but they might return feeling the hurt, which is a kind of harm to the friendship between the American and Chinese people," the official said.