Tourists have photos taken in front of a gate of the Tsinghua University in Beijing on July 8, the day the university reopened its campus for visitors after remaining closed for three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (YUAN YI/FOR CHINA DAILY)
Visiting the campuses of the famous Peking University and Tsinghua University is a huge summer attraction for Chinese students and their parents. As only a limited number of visitors are allowed to enter the premises of the two universities on any given day, scalpers are making big money by selling free entry tickets at high prices to eager students.
The campuses have only recently reopened to the public after remaining closed for three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that visitors are being allowed in again, there is a massive rush to book the limited number of free tickets that are released by the universities for day trips. The scalpers, some of whom are former students of the two universities, have been profiting from this situation.
Peking University has acted against 46 former students who raked in around 1.5 million yuan ($210,000) from 139 students who wanted to visit the campus, said a notice issued by the university recently. Each of the 139 students was charged 10,800 yuan for a "study tour" that included visits to the university.
The university, which allows former students to book tickets for up to three companions to enter the campus during the summer vacation, has suspended the 46 former students' access to booking tickets either for themselves or others.
On July 8, both PKU and Tsinghua reopened their campuses to the public, and visitors need to book appointments in advance. While PKU did not specify how many visitors are being allowed daily, Tsinghua University said it is letting in 4,000 visitors a day.
Experts said the strong interest among parents and students to visit the two universities means the campuses would be swamped with people if there are no restrictions, yet allowing in only those who have booked slots in advance is helping unscrupulous elements to exploit the situation.
On travel portal Ctrip, a five-day summer camp to PKU and Tsinghua costs around 5,000 yuan. The trip includes meeting students from the two universities, taking pictures with them, learning about the admission process from them and also attending lectures given by professors.
However, there is no way of actually verifying if the students and professors are really from the universities. Moreover, the trip does not promise entry into the university campuses. It only talks about visits to the "outside" of the universities.
According to Nanfang Metropolis Daily, a woman surnamed Li from Hangzhou said that she signed her child up for a five-day study tour to the universities, costing 4,980 yuan, but her child did not even get to enter the two universities, and had to be satisfied with photographs taken at the gates.
Apart from the so-called study tours, simply entering the two universities is now costing a lot of money. Netizens have complained on different social media platforms about the difficulties they have faced in obtaining a free slot to visit the two universities, while others claimed that they got the tickets for a price.
According to Beijing Business Today, scalpers have been selling tickets for a day tour of the campuses at 300 to 500 yuan. People wanting to visit have to share their ID number and phone number with the scalpers, who claim they can get the entry tickets as soon as they are released.
There have been instances where people have paid the money to the scalpers, but have not got the tickets in return.
A 19-year-old student surnamed Han said he paid a scalper 20 yuan to enter Tsinghua, and sent his personal information as advised. However, when he tried to enter the campus, the security guard told him the ticket system did not have his information.
When he tried to ask for his money back, the scalper blocked his number.
Sun Zhifeng, a lawyer at Chance Bridge Law Firm, said it is difficult to crack down on such scalpers, as many are anonymous online entities.
However, if a lot of money is involved, they can be tracked for committing fraud and carrying out illegal business operations, Sun said.