In June Beijing’s prestigious Renmin University saw its first batch of students graduate with a degree in anti-corruption studies.
So it was rather unfortunate that only six months later the only university to offer such a course should itself be embroiled in a graft scandal.
Last week it emerged that the university’s director of admissions, Cai Rongsheng, is being investigated for selling places to students.
The news broke as Cai tried to flee China using a fake passport, with suggestions in the press that he may have made several hundred million yuan during his 10 years in the post.
Media and netizens weren’t too surprised, claiming that it was common knowledge that places were available at Renmin for Rmb1 million ($164,248) a pop.
As the Legal Daily wrote: “An admissions director can actually expropriate hundreds of millions of yuan. In the view of ordinary people, colleges and universities are hardly considered clean places.”
Even if it was common knowledge, the news was still depressing. As one commentator put it on weibo: “Education is the cornerstone of the nation and the state. I really do not know what is wrong with society.”
In this case, the revelation was more sensitive because Renmin is often called the ‘red’ university, due to its lengthy links with the Communist Party (the association predates the 1949 revolution).
Another institution that has had an embarrassing time of it lately is the People’s Liberation Army, which has been forced to admit that it is suffering from the activities of a number of imposters claiming to work in its senior ranks.
Because of the PLA’s reputation as a powerful organisation – a law unto itself, some of its critics claim – the military has spawned a series of impersonators pretending to be influential commanders.
The most impressive case seems to be that of a criminal gang based in the southern province of Guangxi. The story came to light when one of its members, Xu Qiyong, was arrested for fraud in the city of Linyi in the eastern province of Shandong last month. In a case that has received widespread media attention, Xu was said to have been posing as a PLA officer who could facilitate access to military academies for a fee. But that isn’t where the incident ended. In a dramatic denouement, Xu’s cronies decided to rescue their colleague by turning up at the police station where he was being held, dressed (once again) as PLA officers. Armed with fake documents, they demanded his immediate release.
Unfortunately for the gang, the local police called their bluff and they too were arrested.
This led to a raid on the gang’s headquarters in Guangxi. Much to the surprise of the police, the building had been fabricated to look almost exactly like a PLA barracks and was even run along military lines.
It later emerged that several members of the gang actually thought that they had enlisted with the real PLA.
Which leads perhaps to the most bizarre example of the fake military manoeuvres. This involved a man identified as Mr Mu, a swindler from Xi’an who also made his money by claiming to be a PLA officer who could get people into military academies. But Mu was then approached by a man who told him he represented a general named Yang who wanted to build a new academy himself. Having made Rmb1.2 million from his bogus activities, Mu decided to invest in the project. He coughed up the money and waited for a meeting with Yang but it soon became clear that Mu had fallen for the very fraud he had been practicing on others.
Chinese netizens, of course, found the whole thing rather amusing. One even suggested that the appropriate punishment was a court martial. “Send them all to a military court since they all want to be in the army so much,” the blogger quipped on weibo.
Of course, the fact that people are ready to pay to get into the military hints at some of the prospects for personal enrichment that they must be expecting.
Another weibo contributor sounded a more cautionary note on Mu’s strange case: “This is funny. But it reflects just how powerful and corrupt the military can be.”
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