Three people appeared in court on fraud charges yesterday for helping 130 Chinese students pretend to be foreign nationals so they could enter top universities in Shanghai.
Foreign nationals face less stringent standards when applying to study at Chinese universities.
Shanghai No 1 Intermediate People's Court heard that Zhao Yingjun, 53, Liu Zhengsheng, 43, and Li Jing, 51, together swindled 6.29 million yuan (US$810,000) from 130 students from Shanxi and Jiangxi provinces in exchange for the illegal service.
Two other suspects - Gu Shenlin and Fan Shaorong - who remain at large, were said to be the leaders of the gang.
The gang members allegedly promised the students that they could help them enroll at Jiaotong University in Shanghai. When they failed to do so, they faked the students' nationalities, making it appear as though they were from Vietnam or Laos.
Jiaotong University and Shanghai University then accepted the students as foreigners.
High school graduates from foreign countries can enter Chinese universities by presenting their grades, passports and a certificate demonstrating their proficiency in the Chinese language.
Officials at Shanghai University became suspicious when reviewing the students' applications - they all claimed to be from the same parts of the same foreign countries, to have finished high school in China and to have secured their passports just before applying to the school. And their parents were all born in China and worked here.
The school reported the situation to police, who determined that the passports were fake. None of the students had been abroad.
The three gang members were arrested on August 22, 2006, and the 130 students were all expelled.
The three suspects claimed to have been cheated by Gu Shenlin and Fan Shaorong. Zhao and Liu, the deputy editor in chief of a magazine focusing on legal issues, said Gu and Fan had helped their children get into respected universities and they joined the gang because they believed the service was credible.
"I thought I was just helping them to recruit students," Zhao told the court.
Liu claimed himself had paid some money for his relatives to go to the prep school.
No verdict has been reached.
(China Daily July 11, 2007)