Bejing on Thursday denounced the decision of the United States to revoke visas of 1,000 Chinese students and researchers, saying that the move amounted to “racial discrimination”, AP reported.

“It is outright political persecution and racial discrimination, and seriously violated the human rights of Chinese students studying there,” China’s Foreign Minister spokesperson Zhao Lijian said. “China reserves the right to make further responses to this matter.”

On Wednesday, a dozen Chinese students studying in US universities received emails from the US Embassy in Beijing or US consulates in China stating that their visas have been cancelled.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said the visas were being blocked for “certain Chinese graduate students and researchers with ties to China’s military fusion strategy to prevent them from stealing and otherwise appropriating sensitive research”.

“As of September 8, 2020, the [US State] Department has revoked more than 1,000 visas of PRC [People’s Republic of China] nationals who were found to be subject to Presidential Proclamation 10043 and therefore ineligible for a visa,” a State Department spokesperson told the Reuters on Wednesday.

The United States had on May 29 restricted entry of certain Chinsese students and researchers in the country, alleging that they were sent by Beijing to acquire sensitive technology and intellectual property.

Later on September 2, Washington imposed new restrictions on China, barring its officials from visiting American universities or meeting local government officials without approval from the State Department. The decision was in response to restrictions imposed on American officials in China, the State Department said, adding it was also a part of the US administration’s campaign against alleged Chinese influence operations and espionage activity in the country.

About 3,60,00 Chinese students are enrolled in American universities and colleges and they form the largest group of foreign students in the country. The students generate an annual economic activity of about $14 billion (approximately Rs 100 crore), mostly from tuition and other fees.

Officials have said the decision to revoke visas will only affect a small part of the 3,60,00 students enrolled. “We continue to welcome legitimate students and scholars from China who do not further the Chinese Communist Party’s goals of military dominance,” the State Department spokesperson said.

The US and China have locked horns over various topics, including the spread of the coronavirus, trade deals, Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong and alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang.

Both countries have already shut down major consulates and tightened restrictions on journalists. American journalists from news outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal have already been forced to leave China. Similarly, the US has asked Chinese media outlets to register as foreign missions and announced in March that it was reducing the number of scribes allowed to work at US offices of major Chinese media outlets to 100 from 160.