A police investigation is underway today in Henan, where the provincial education authority admitted on Wednesday that at least 127 students had hired other people to take the country's all-important college entrance exam on their behalf.
The Higher Education Admission Office in the province has promised a full investigation into the scam after the state broadcaster China Central Television ran an exposé on Tuesday.
Several invigilators and at least two parents of students involved had been detained, CTTV reported. Police in Henan said they were interrogating the parents of two college students paid to take the exam. The imposter test takers would be expelled, authorities pledged.
Police are also investigating in Hubei Province, where students were reportedly paid to sit the exam, known as gaokao, on behalf of others in Henan.
Education authorities have imposed increasingly strict rules to guard against cheating during the national exam, and although it continues to happen, hiring of surrogate test takers has so far been rare.
In the state television's undercover report, a "fixer" surnamed Li claimed he had recruited students at several Wuhan-based universities as test takers. They could earn 20,000 yuan (HK$25,000) to 50,000 yuan, depending on the result.
Test-takers were given fingerprint films of the students whose places they were taking, in order to fool the fingerprint recognition devices that validate students' identities at the exam.
Despite measures to prevent cheating, this latest scandal has sparked fresh concerns about flaws in the system and corruption.
“I was very surprised at the CCTV report. I did not think someone could cheat under such strict measures,” said Bai Shiping, principal of Qixian County No.2 High School, an exam venue where the cheating took place.
“The cheating has a very bad impact. We strongly oppose this as it will affect both the fairness and justness of gaokao students, as well as the teaching and learning environment," Bai said. "High-tech means, such as fingerprint machines, are increasingly used before sitting the exam but if people turn a blind eye to them, then what is their use?"
Li, the fixer, did not reveal how much he charged, but claimed some of his clients included senior local government officials and rich families.
He said that the cost of paying off administrators at examination centres had risen, from about 60,000 yuan last year to 70,000 yuan.
Citing an anonymous parent who hired Li's services, the CCTV report said that if a stand-in doing the exam was caught, parents and students only had to deny any knowledge of the cheating and keep quiet.
The fixer would use his connections to get the police to release the test taker.
Competition in Henan is especially intense because it has a large student population and fewer allocated slots at universities compared with many other provinces.
Additional reporting by Xinhua