In a twelve-year-long case of identity theft, a young Chinese woman was denied the chance to get a university education, get a credit card, or take out even modest loans.
Now in her 30s, Wang Nana of central China’s impoverished Henan Province has finally caught up with the culprit, Orient Today, a provincial news outlet, reported on Feb. 24.
Another woman, unnamed in the report, had secured Wang’s name and personal information in 2003. She then used it to be admitted to the Zhoukou Professional Training Institution and eventually became a teacher.
The fake Wang’s diploma was revoked and her teaching position voided, state-run China Central Television reported on Feb. 27.
The real Wang’s family had gone to great lengths in hopes of her getting into university. Her three siblings all dropped out school to help cover her expected tuition.
Locked out of university, Wang ended up working temporary jobs before getting married and becoming a mother. But the other woman retained Wang’s identity and personal information, even getting a university degree in Wang’s name.
This caused Wang no end of bureaucratic problems. Banks rejected her applications because while she understandably reported her education as high school-level, she technically had already graduated from university.
Eventually Wang began to suspect that she was a victim of identity theft and caught up with the fake by checking the graduation statistics of Zhoukou, the school she had been cheated out of enrolling in. She discovered a graduate with her own name and matching personal details. Only the photo showed a different face than her own.
Tracking down the fake Wang’s contact information, she placed a phone call to the impostor, who responded with arrogant contempt before changing her phone number.
“Your efforts are useless,” the fake Wang said. “Even if you went to that school, who knows if you would’ve been able to become a teacher.
She then suggested that she had powerful connections, telling the real Wang, “you could report me to the UN and I still wouldn’t be scared of you.”
Wang had an inconclusive face-to-face meeting with the impostor’s father, who admitted that he had spent 5,000 yuan (about $800) hiring an agent to steal her identity so that his own daughter, who had failed the entrance exams, would be able to go to university.
He offered Wang 80,000 yuan (about $12,000) to drop the issue, but Wang wanted the impostor’s diploma cancelled entirely to avoid future bureaucratic difficulty.
According to educational regulations in Henan Province, giving up her diploma meant that the fake Wang would also have to give up her tenured teaching position. She and her father thus avoided further mediation with the real Wang.
After the report was published, many Internet users came out in support of the victim.
One comment bemoaned the corruption in China’s education system. “Academic and government agencies are like hands in gloves when it comes to all kinds of foul and evil things.”
Other users criticized the legal system for not punishing those with connections and “only targeting common folk.” One remarked that official identification now needs DNA testing to be reliable.
In one of the comments, a netizen related a personal experience also suspected to involve identity theft.
“I took the college entrance exam in 2014 and scored only 17 out of 150 points in English, my strongest subject. I never scored under 120 in previous exams, and it is impossible that I filled in the wrong name or the wrong circles on the answer sheet. I felt like the heavens had collapsed. My teacher said someone must have taken my place, but what can I do about it? I went to the Shandong provincial education authorities but they don’t care about it at all.”
“If [the imposter and her father] are not even afraid of the UN, let’s help them retweet and give the topic more attention,” another user commented.
Incidentally, the UN retweeted the Orient Today report on its official Weibo (Chinese social media site) account.
Wang Nana’s tragedy is just one case in the darker side of Chinese higher education.
In a 2009 case, Luo Caixia, also a woman from Henan, had her identity stolen by the daughter of a political commissar working at the local police station. When Luo tried to stand up for her rights and reported her case to the police, she was turned down three times.
When she took the issue to the father of the woman who had impersonated her, he reacted with arrogance, saying “It is your honor to be able to meet me.”