China clamps down on gao kao identity theft

Legislative amendment sets out punishments for stealing or assisting stealing of someone else’s identity in university entrance exams

October 19, 2020
The first day of the 2019 university entrance examination, at the one of Qingdao's test sites
Source: iStock

Lawmakers in China are seeking to criminalise identity theft in university entrance exams, state media reports.

Imposters who purloin someone else’s identity, university offer or scores in the gao kao, China’s national college entrance examination completed by 10 million candidates every year, could face “no more than three years of imprisonment, criminal detention or surveillance” along with a fine, according to a legislative proposal.

“Stealing money or property from someone else constitutes a crime,” Liu Jixing, a member of the National People’s Congress standing committee commented in an interview. “But stealing someone’s bright future could cause even greater harm to the society.”

According to reports, the gao kao proposal was not originally included in the legislative amendment, which covers a range of issues. However, several members of the standing committee proactively pushed for it after a series of exam frauds ignited public fury back in June and July.

The story of Chen Chunxiu, a farmer’s daughter in Shandong province who found out only recently that her identity had been stolen 16 years ago, when an imposter enrolled in Shandong University of Technology with her personal profile and grades, raised a string of questions about the loophole in an exam system that is famous for its fairness and strictness.

While the tone has already been set by announcements that existing laws were not sufficient, the latest proposal further specifies that a more severe punishment will be applied to people who assist or organise such fraud.

Hou Yanfang, professor at the Law School at Shandong Universitytold local media that this was an appropriate consideration “as imposters themselves are inexperienced with limited ability, whereas their relatives often play a substantial role, so organisers and instigators are more influential in this type of crime”.

In Ms Chen’s case, the imposter’s uncle, a former senior official in the town, managed to get access to her gao kao information and forged a personal profile with the help of leaders from her high school, the responsible organisation that manages students’ profiles under China's personnel archives system.

Media reports revealed that at least 242 graduates were investigated for involvement in stealing others’ identities in Shandong alone. The local education authorities responded that all of those cases took place before 2006, due to “lack of digitalisation of the information system in the past”.

karen.liu@timeshighereducation.com

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