A team comprising members of the Hubei provincial nationalities and religious affairs committee and the Jingzhou nationalities and religious affairs bureau is investigating the authenticity and legitimacy of minority students for college enrollment.
"We will propose that educational authorities revoke the preferential treatment to students found to have illegally changed their nationality status and the discipline inspection and supervision departments punish the guilty," Tan Hui, director of Hubei provincial nationalities and religious affairs committee, said.
Last week, a local newspaper received a letter from residents challenging a list of 103 students from Shishou city and Jianli county who received an extra 10 marks in this year's college enrollment exam. The residents claimed they were not minority students.
Ethnic minority high school graduates are usually awarded an extra 10 marks in the exam to encourage them to seek a college education.
The letter said the two regions do not have many minority students, yet 54 in Shishou and 47 in Jianli, were given the extra marks. It said the so-called minority students were mainly the children of officials.
The newspapers, Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily and Wuhan-based Chutian Metropolis Daily, conducted an investigation that revealed there had been organized cheating and manipulation of the minority status.
Lu Bingshuang, deputy director of the Shishou student enrollment office, said the verification process was very strict this year and the minority status of students was checked against their identity cards and residence register.
"And we also put the names of minority students online before sending them to the provincial enrollment office," Lu said.
The office received a report questioning the minority status of a student surnamed Li and he was excluded from the list, Lu said.
However, Lu said his office faced difficulties when trying to verify the status of students especially when they have been approved by the local nationalities and security bureaus.
Peng Liu, director of the Jianli county nationality and religious affairs bureau, said: "We checked the residence register. If it shows the student is an ethnic minority, we have to give our approval."
Shui Hongguo, member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference's Standing Committee of Shishou, said the nationality status of at least 29 students out of 54 were found to be fraudulent after examination by a 14-member committee.
The parents of some students told the newspapers they did resort to cheating to ensure their children would have to opportunity to attend college.
Southern Metropolis Daily contributed to the story