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    After Shandong Scandal, Punishments Added for Test Score Theft

    A revised law is aimed at stamping out cases of families exerting influence to obtain higher “gaokao” scores for their kids, allowing them to attend university under an assumed identity.

    Months after several high-profile cases of identity theft drew attention to the decades-old problem of stealing test scores to secure college admission, a top Chinese education official has introduced new measures that could hold such individuals criminally accountable.

    The vice minister of education, Tian Xuejun, made his remarks Wednesday, when a revised version of the country’s education law was submitted for deliberation by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature.

    According to the revised law, anyone caught cheating by providing false information or concealing certain facts, or stealing another’s identity or academic qualifications, will be expelled from the school where they are enrolled, barred from taking state-level exams for one to three years, and prosecuted if their behavior is found to have constituted a crime. If they have already graduated, their diploma shall be revoked and they shall be removed from any civil service posts, if applicable.

    In June of last year, the issue of pilfered scores from the gaokao, China’s rigorous college entrance exam, was highlighted when an investigation in the eastern Shandong province uncovered hundreds of cases of gaokao scores that had been stolen between 1999 and 2006.

    At the time, Gou Jing, a woman from the province who claimed her gaokao scores were stolen not once but twice drove social discussion on fairness in education to a fever pitch.

    Previously, for high-profile cases, identity thieves have lost their jobs or had their diplomas revoked, while intermediaries who helped arrange the fraud would be removed from their posts, or face demotions or warnings if they worked in the public sector. Rarely would anyone involved in such cases be held criminally accountable.

    Though near-universal digitization of information has made such crimes more difficult to pull off, many are resurfacing years, even decades after being committed. The Chinese public has roundly supported the legal revisions as a sign that the authorities have prioritized stamping out this phenomenon.

    However, some online have argued that the new punishments to be imposed on identity thieves are still too lenient.

    “They’ve irrevocably altered another person’s life, yet the consequences are almost negligible,” one user commented below a social media posting announcing the revised law. “Not being allowed to take state exams for three years is hardly serious.”

    Editor: David Paulk.

    (Header image: People Visual)