GUANGZHOU - Authorities in south China's Guangdong Province said Tuesday they were investigating a suspected prison police recruitment scandal involving "special handling" notes for some candidates.
Li Xiao, deputy director of the Guangdong Provincial Department of Justice information office, told Xinhua the department was probing the case but the recruitment was still under way. Li gave no further details.
The names of 146 candidates who had taken written exams and undergone interviews for police positions in Guangdong's prison system were posted on the Internet in spreadsheet form by a netizen last Wednesday. Sixty-one of them had a note after their names.
The notes listed their relatives (including officials) or the names of those who had recommended them.
Netizens said a name list of candidates approved for an interview, or oral exam, the next step in recruitment after written exams, was posted on the official website of the Guangdong Provincial Prison Administration on May 12. But the list was quickly deleted and replaced with a new one.
Some candidates had downloaded the original list, however, and found the notations in hidden cells in the spreadsheet.
Netizens also found that all 61 candidates with "special care" notes were listed as qualified for the next recruitment phase (the physical) after the prison administration announced the rankings of the candidates on May 19 for what is usually the final step of recruitment.
The Beijing News managed to interview an official named Xu Lin, whose name was appended to that of candidate Zhong Shengwen.
"I have no relationship with Zhong at all," Xu, a Shenzhen city justice official, was quoted as saying. "I recommended Zhong only because he was excellent."
The Guangdong Provincial Prison Administration posted a public apology on its site on Friday. It said some parents or relatives of the candidates had been eager to know the results of the exams and contacted the administration through various channels to ask about the recruitment progress.
The administration staff had made the notations "with the view of improving services to make candidates and parents satisfied".
But due to an error, the notes had been made public together with the exam results, it said.
The province's prisons are to recruit 400 police in the first half of this year, the announcement said, and 5,509 people sat the written exams.
Of these, 695 qualified for interviews carried out from May 14 to 16.