Son of Chinese official jailed for trying to bribe professor to help him pass degree

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 April, 2013, 3:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 April, 2013, 11:25pm


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The son of a Chinese government official who tried to bribe a British university professor with £5,000 to pass his UK degree has been jailed for a year.

Bristol Crown Court heard Li Yang also took a loaded replica pistol in the meeting to try and bribe the don at Bath University.

The 26-year-old was studying for a masters degree in innovation and technology management.

But he feared failure after he had been given just 37 per cent fail mark for his dissertation.

So he met with Professor Andrew Graves who told Li he could resubmit the 12,000-word essay, appeal against the mark or accept it and withdraw from the course.

But Li offered a fourth option, the court was told.

When he learned of the result of the dissertation it was a bitter blow to him. He genuinely felt he had done all right
Blake James, defending Li

He told Graves: "I am a businessman" and placed £5,000 in cash on the table in front of him.

"You can keep the money if you give me a pass mark and I won’t bother you again," Li was alleged to have said.

Shocked, Graves asked Li to leave - but as the student put the money back in his coat a replica handgun loaded with six .22 calibre pellets fell from the pocket to the floor, the court heard.

Judge Michael Longman told Li that the weapon caused fear and alarm to the professor at the meeting on 23 November last year.

"You attempted to persuade a university professor to behave in such a way that if it had been successful you would have undermined the integrity of the universities in the UK and the legitimacy of degrees from universities here, the University of Bath in particular," Longman said, according reports inside the court by Press Association.

"Your bid to achieve a pass mark by offering what was a bribe to your professor was ill-conceived to the point of being a spectacular mistake and one which was doomed to fail from the start."

Li admitted the charges of bribery and possessing an imitation firearm.

He was sentenced to 12 months in prison and ordered to pay £4,880 in prosecution costs.

Prosecuting, Mark Hollier said: "The final part of the course is for students to submit a dissertation of about 12,000 words. That had to be in by the first week of September. Mr Li’s dissertation was submitted that September last year. It was marked by Professor Graves. The pass mark is 40% and the mark awarded was 37%."

Li’s dissertation mark was checked by external examiners from Oxford and Cambridge University and found to be correct, Hollier said.

Defending Li, Blake James said his client came from an affluent family in China where his father was a respected government official and businessman.

He said Li was not a "sham student" and had come to the UK in 2006 to study for a computer science degree at the University of Bath, which he passed.

Documents show Li was progressing well in his masters course until he failed the dissertation, James said.

At the time of the final module Li was working for his father’s firm – earning £25,000 a year with a bonus of £11,000 – as well as studying.

"When he learned of the result of the dissertation it was a bitter blow to him," James said. "He genuinely felt he had done all right."

James said Li was concerned he would not be able to move from his expiring student visa to a tier one visa without passing his course. His current visa has now expired.

He said Li was used to carrying large amounts of cash and had the 0.177 air pistol, used for shooting practice, in his possession as he did not want to leave it in the car during the meeting.

Li sobbed in court as the sentence was handed down while his parents, wife and parents-in-law sat in the public gallery.

He plans to return to China with his wife, also a University of Bath student, after his release.

Wealthy Chinese families are spending fortunes getting their children into prestigious British universities.

Bath is ranked 9th best in the UK.

Nearly 79,000 students from China attended UK universities in 2011/12- a 17 per cent rise on the previous academic year.