By Jill Macallister
Because of new national security measures, a Chinese delegation cannot attend a BYU-sponsored conference this week.
U.S. consulates in China did not grant the delegate”s visas in time because of new security regulations that were adopted by U.S. immigration after Sept. 11, said Sara Lee Gibb, conference director and associate dean of the College of Health and Human Performance.
Chinese artists, leaders and educators requested to visit BYU after 11 BYU dance teachers traveled to China. The delegates said they wanted to learn about American theories in education and teaching the fine arts.
The conference, which was scheduled to start July 22, was cancelled late last week when many delegates still had not received visas.
“Our government is having to be more careful in the name of national security. They are trying to protect our country,” Gibb said. “Though I can”t imagine how they could see these people as threats, I understand the need for security.”
The holdup on obtaining visas was during the application processing, said Erlend Peterson, associate international vice president of BYU.
Since Sept. 11, U.S. consulates in China are demanding more complete information about anyone seeking entrance into the United States.
The new demands have lengthened the interviewing and reviewing processes, which takes more time, Peterson said.
“There are new things to look at and new considerations. We used to know what they were looking for,” Peterson said.
When the consulates requested more specific information about many of the delegates, time ran out and the university decided to cancel the conference, Peterson said.
“Care was taken to leave enough time, but it wasn”t enough,” Peterson said. “We haven”t experienced these kind of time delays. We are into a whole new ball game.”
The conference is being rescheduled for next year in hopes that the delegates will have enough time to get their visas.
“Since it is our consulates that are preventing them from coming, it is a little bit sensitive,” Gibb said. “We told the delegates we would hold the conference during the same two weeks next year.”
Conference organizers said they are planning more time for processing next year”s visas.
BYU has hosted Chinese groups in the past, and Gibb said she is expecting them to be allowed to come again.
“These are top-quality people with no reason to be denied access,” Peterson said.
Peterson said he does not expect this to hinder American, church or university relations with China.
“It”s just a bureaucratic process,” he said. “They know that.”