China / Society

Identity stolen, woman deprived of campus life

By Qi Xin in Henan and Yang Wanli in Beijing (China Daily) Updated: 2016-03-22 03:03

If Wang Nana had not applied for a bank loan, she never would have learned that she had been admitted to college. She would have continued to think she had failed, that all of her studying was for nought, that her hopes for a better future were misplaced.

However, the loan application and a follow-up inquiry revealed that a well-placed bribe, an intercepted acceptance letter and lax procedures had changed the future for two high school graduates: Wang and the woman who assumed her identity in 2003.

"I cannot forget those days, when I was waiting for the college acceptance letter 13 years ago," said Wang, 33. "I studied so hard. But I didn't receive the acceptance letter. I thought I had failed."

Instead, it was Zhang Yingying who had failed the gao-kao, the national college entrance examination.

A bribe by her father and flawed record-keeping at Zhoukou Vocational and Technical College in Henan province, however, allowed Zhang to assume Wang's spot in the college, to graduate with a degree and to obtain a job as a Chinese teacher at a local vocational school.

Then the bank loan caused it all to unravel.

Officials at the bank told Wang last year that a credit check found that she had graduated from college in 2006. Wang replied that not only had she never spent a day in college, she had not even been accepted.

She said her family, which lives in a rural area, had trusted the traditional method of learning about a student's enrollment success — a letter to the student's high school — and had never attempted to confirm the result.

After the story was reported by the media, Zhang's father, Zhang Zhiqiang, publicly admitted that he and his family had offered a bribe 13 years ago so his daughter could assume Wang's identity and take her chance for an education.

According to Zhang's father, his daughter was not asked to show her identity card as part of the college entrance procedure.

Zhao Zhenran, vice-president of the college, said there were flaws in the college's entrance procedures in 2003.

In the college's profiles of graduating students, Zhang used her own photo but Wang's name and ID number.

Hu Xiaolin, who is now responsible for college acceptance information at Wang's high school, said the record from 13 years ago could not be found. But he noted that before 2011, all acceptance letters were sent to the teacher in charge of each class. Five years ago, the policy was changed so that acceptance letters are delivered directly to students.

Although investigation of the case continues, nine officials in Henan province already have been sanctioned, according to media reports.

Zhang has since quit her job, and her academic qualifications were canceled, according to an announcement from the local government on Saturday.

Zhang's father posted a letter on the Internet, apologizing to Wang and her family.

Beijing Youth Daily commented in an editorial on Monday that social mobility through education offers hope for a better future for many. If her identity had not been assumed by someone else, Wang would have lived a better life, it said. "This is unforgivable," the newspaper said.

As for Wang, the future suddenly seems brighter. She has begun, again, to think about how a degree would expand her life from her small village beginnings and the copy shop she and her husband now run, which brings in just 1,000 ($154) to 2,000 yuan per month.

"I didn't mean to ruin anyone's life, but I deserved the truth," Wang said. "I will take this year's national college entrance examination and realize my dream to be a teacher."

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