Bribery: An Unspoken Rule in China’s Driving Schools

April 8, 2015 Updated: April 8, 2015

When the municipal authorities of a southern Chinese city carried out an investigation into the local vehicle administration agency, they found that over 40 driving testers were involved in rampant bribery.

Liang Zhixiong, director of Vehicle Administration in the city of Zhanjiang, Guangdong Province, was given a 10-year prison sentence, Yangcheng Evening News reported on April 5.

Bribery of driving coaches and examiners became so commonplace that it had evolved into an unspoken rule, the report says. Earlier, in 2012, an anti-graft regulator had already received reports from urban residents saying that they had to give red envelopes containing cash to instructional staff.

The investigation by Zhanjiang authorities found that prospective drivers had given up 2.1 million yuan ($343,000) in bribes, 220,000 yuan of which was received by Liang personally.

Students could expect to pay a $100 bribe for a so-called “test fee.” Other methods included taking the examiners out to restaurants or conspicuously placing cash in the cars during tests to ensure smooth results.  

“I don’t remember how much money I’ve taken,” one of the driving instructors said in a confession to municipal investigators. He or she also reported being able to receive bribes every day.

Some staff even bribed director Liang so as to ensure that they would keep their lucrative positions. One examiner surnamed Qi gave Liang 170,000 yuan ($27,000) during a period of personnel shifts to safeguard his job.

I don’t remember how much money I’ve taken.
— Driving instructor

Bribery at driving instruction centers is not limited to Zhanjiang, but appears to be common throughout China and a common topic of online discussion.

“I don’t want to say it’s 100 percent, but I’d say 90 percent of the driving test examiners in China take bribes and bribe others. They can be differentiated only in the amount of cash they take!” a user named Jiangnan wrote.

Another post, by “Aixinjueluo Bo Ning” from Zhejiang Province, posted: “I remember that when we took our driving tests, if you didn’t give the examiner 500 yuan in a red envelope, he would make trouble for you everywhere. If you paid up, he would even hold the steering wheel for you!”