Thirty-one high school graduates in Chongqing municipality, including a top scorer in the national college entrance examination, have been disqualified from university entry because they had changed their ethnic status. The move has been hailed by some as a victory in the crackdown on cheating in the national exams. The incident highlighted loopholes in the entrance-exam regime, which has been a focus of public discontent in recent years and has triggered calls for a sweeping revamp of the entire system. On its website, cqzkb.gov.cn, the Chongqing government office in charge of student-admission affairs said 15 Communist Party and government officials, including the parents of He Chuanyang , the municipality's top scorer in the humanities portion of the exam, had been disciplined in connection with the scandal. But the office refused to release the names of the students whose ethnic statuses were illegally altered, because they are under 18. Students from ethnic-minority groups may apply for up to an extra 20 points on top of their exam scores - a substantial boost to their chances of entering a university. Official investigations found that Chuanyang's parents, two middle-ranking officials in the Wushan county government, arranged to have their son's ethnicity changed from the Han group to the Tujia minority in 2006. Chuanyang scored a staggering 659 points on the exam even without the boost. But altering ethnic status is a serious offence under a joint regulation released in May by the ministries of Education and Public Security and the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, and the penalty is disqualification for any university place. Peking University decided not to admit Chuanyang, and the University of Hong Kong was reported to have snubbed the top scorer as well, although HKU's China Affairs Office has refused to confirm the report. Shanghai Jiaotong University professor Xiong Bingqi said the parents should be held to account for the offences, but the students deserve a second chance. Professor Xiong said public support for the regulation and the penalty for cheating exist for a good reason. 'Why have there been doubts over the legitimacy of and injustices in the ethnicity-based award system in the media, and why have there been calls for abolition of the award system?' the academic asked. Tsinghua University professor Li Dun said the award system was designed to address the lack of access to quality education by people in ethnic groups living in rural areas. 'But the regime has increasingly become a loophole for those in power to take advantage of, and this is only one aspect of the national college entrance exam system which urgently needs reform,' he said.