Chinese student almost misses college entrance exam because of a metal zip in his trousers

Helpful onlookers tear fastener from boy’s clothes so he can get past vigilant security guards at test centre

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 June, 2018, 8:39pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 June, 2018, 11:42am

Just 20 minutes before he was due to sit a potentially life-changing college entrance exam, a young man from central China was presented with a puzzle worthy of the test itself: How do you get past a security checkpoint when you are wearing the wrong trousers?

As improbable as it might sound, that was exactly the situation that faced a candidate in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, on Thursday.

After waiting in line with his peers at the examination venue, the unnamed youngster finally made it to the entrance only to find his passage blocked. The reason was that each time he tried to pass through the scanners, an alarm sounded, news portal reported.

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Security guards were initially bemused as to what was causing the problem, until one of them noticed that the youngster was wearing a pair of trousers fitted with a metal zip, the report said.

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As candidates for the exam – known as the gaokao in Chinese – are prohibited from wearing any clothing with metallic fittings, the student was refused admission. And it was then that things became serious.

For young Chinese seeking to go into higher education, success at the gaokao is not just important, it is a prerequisite.

To an ambitious school leaver, the thought of being excluded from sitting the test because of a sartorial slip up would be too much to bear.

Thankfully for the young man with the troublesome zip, the assembled crowd of parents and fellow students who had witnessed his checkpoint troubles were quick to lend a hand.

A video of the incident that was widely shared online showed people tugging and tearing at the fastener until it was ripped free of the boy’s trousers. With the metal zip removed, he was able to pass through the checkpoint in complete silence.

Once on the other side of the barrier he was even presented with a replacement pair of trousers by a kindly teacher.

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A Zhengzhou government official later confirmed that the boy’s trousers were to blame for the security hold-up.

“The problem was with his clothing,” the person said. “When he was going through security, it made a noise. He was very anxious, as were his parents.”

While the Henan Provincial Education Department did not comment on the incident, the news report said that a notice instructing candidates on what they should and should not wear for the exam had been posted on its official WeChat platform since May 31. The statement made it clear that metal fasteners were a no-go.

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Security at gaokao exam venues has been steadily increased in recent years as officials seek to combat a widespread cheating problem. The willingness of test-takers to resort to nefarious means to secure a pass is fuelled by the fact that for most of them, and their parents, the exam is regarded as a make or break.

Besides basic scanning devices, as used in Zhengzhou, authorities across the country have employed everything from facial recognition systems to fingerprinting to verify the identities of candidates and prevent paid agents sitting exams on behalf of others.

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Under Chinese law, anyone found guilty of cheating in a gaokao exam faces a prison term of up to seven years.

About 9.4 million students across China will sit this year’s exam in a three-day period from Thursday to Saturday.