The national college entrance exam is again under intense public scrutiny after a top scorer in Chongqing was found to have changed his ethnic background to secure extra marks, an act that could dash his hopes of reaching higher education. Acting on public tip-offs, investigators found He Chuanyang was among 31 college candidates in Chongqing whose ethnic status was altered to take advantage of a preferential policy that awards minority students an additional 20 points. The scam is feared to be just the tip of an iceberg of abuses that would dent public faith in the examination system. The 17-year-old student scored a staggering 659 points, excluding the ethnicity reward. It was Chongqing's top score in the humanities division this year, which would make him eligible for a place in any of the top universities on the mainland and in Hong Kong. Investigators found that Chuanyang's father, He Yeda, approached Wan Minqiang, then director of Wushan county's Bureau of Ethnic Affairs, in 2006 for help in changing his son's ethnic status from the majority Han to the Tujia minority. Under a new regulation jointly issued by the State Ethnic Affairs Commission and the Ministries of Education and Public Security in May, Chuanyang's scores would be invalid and he would be disqualified from a university place. A Chongqing government office, which is in charge of college student recruitment, is yet to decide if it will punish the student, but his father was removed from his job in the Wushan county government. The Chengdu Business Daily reported that the student was approached by officials from the University of Hong Kong's China Affairs Office to come to the city to study as it did not have to abide by mainland regulations. However, the HKU office refused to confirm the invitation, nor did it confirm the student was allowed to take part in its admission interviews. Shanghai Jiaotong University professor Xiong Bingqi said he would not be surprised if Chuanyang was admitted to HKU or even Harvard, as the student deserved a second chance. 'It's true that the student is an adult who should make the decision on his own, however his parents were largely to blame as they're the main perpetrators,' the professor said. Professor Xiong said that the regulations should target parents, particularly those working within the government who abuse the exam regime in their own favour. To uphold the rule of law, the professor said civil servants should be dismissed from their posts if they were found guilty of such violations. 'As for the students, the punishment meted out to their parents would serve as the biggest lesson,' he said.