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A woman in China (not pictured) is being investigated by the police after being accused of lying on her civil service exam. Photo: SCMP composite

Fake resume: Chinese police investigate woman who says she received PhD from Tsinghua in civil service exam

  • The woman’s name was in the spotlight after she passed the first exam in the recruitment because she had “attended the prestigious university”
  • But online attention that a Tsinghua graduate would apply to be a civil servant prompted an official investigation

Local police in south-central China are investigating a 28-year-old woman who submitted fake diplomas when she enrolled in a national civil service exam.

The woman, surnamed Zhang, from Shandong province in eastern China, is accused of submitting fake documents purporting to show that she had earned a doctoral degree from Tsinghua University in Beijing, one of the top schools in the world.

According to Tsinghua University: “There is no person of that name in our student database.”

The Shandong police said that Zhang did not study at Tsinghua University and that she had received a bachelor’s degree from a college in Shandong.

A woman in China studies for her civil service exam in 2011. Photo: AFP
After Zhang passed the first step in the recruitment process, her name was highlighted in orange in the announcement of 653 people who passed because of her “distinguished academic background”.

The announcement received significant online attention because people were shocked by the idea that someone who graduated from such an esteemed school would pursue grass-roots government work.

That online attention prompted authorities to look into Zhang’s background, where they found she had been lying about her education history.

In the civil service application, Zhang also claimed she had worked as an auxiliary police officer in central China, but it was unclear if she had in fact served in that position before taking the exam.

The incident has become a joke and triggered a wave of criticism in mainland China.

One commenter said: “It was too embarrassing, how could she be so naive?”

Another asked: “How did she pass the official review by the local review board?”

Over 2.1 million people took the civil service exam in 2021 hoping to earn one of 31,200 jobs. Photo: AFP

According to the Chinese legal service platform Hualv, there is no penalty for lying on a resume. However, forgery, such as making fake certificates, is illegal.

In 2021, a local court in Beijing ruled an import and export company had the right to terminate the contract of a former employee who had worked there for eight years because he had used fake diplomas to get the job.

In May last year, another Beijing-based court said a man, surnamed Zhang, must pay his former employer 300,000 yuan (US$45,000) for falsifying his education certificates.