A Chinese actor's plagiarism scandal has further sprawled as angry netizens start to look for more dirt from his professors at his alma mater, the Beijing Film Academy (BFA).
Chinese actor Zhai Tianlin, who graduated from BFA with a PhD last summer, was found to have submitted a paper that were 40 percent plagiarized after he posted an admission letter on Sina Weibo for a post-doc position at Peking University. Zhai also appeared ignorant of the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CKNI), a famous Chinese database of academic literature, in a live broadcast from last August.
The scandal, which broke out last week, has refused to ebb as angry netizens decry not only academic fraud but also what they call "a plaguing woe of academic corruption" where some renowned Chinese higher institutes open a "backdoor" to those who are powerful or rich.
Netizens have since begun to dig up a number of other issues in professors related to Zhai. They've raised doubts about Zhai's PhD advisor Chen Yi whose CV on the school's website shows he only holds a bachelor's degree but is tasked with tutoring PhD students.
"Is there anything more ridiculous than a holder of a bachelor's degree instructing a doctoral degree candidate?" Weibo user "Yunqiluo" posted.
BFA's website shows that Chen, 60, has co-authored four books on the performing art and has written or directed multiple stage plays, throughout his career.
Netizens have also disparaged Zhang Hui, the head of BFA's performance institute, who married one of his students 24 years his junior.
Zhang's wife allegedly appeared in a film that was directed by Zhang and funded by the school's film studio, leading many netizens to suspect that Zhang was abusing school funding to please his young wife.
Chu Zhaohui, a research fellow at the National Institute of Education Sciences, noted that allegation of plagiarism against Zhai has struck a nerve. Many people believe an academic degree is an arduous quest, but people with power and fame can be conferred such honor without putting in the work.
Some higher education institutions have a record of conferral degrees that were not legitimately earned. "Many such 'PhDs' are in high positions in government or industry," Chu told the Global Times on Wednesday.
Xiakedao, a WeChat account affiliated with the People's Daily, noted that many corrupted officials hold "suspicious" academic degrees. Ji Xiangqi, former vice-governor of East China's Shandong province, received his master's degree in five months. Wu Changshun, former police chief of North China's Tianjin Municipality, got a PhD in engineering without leaving his position in public security system.
BFA launched an investigation into Zhai's academic integrity on Monday, according to Beijing Youth Daily. Peking University also announced Monday that it will wait for the results of the BFA investigation before deciding if its offer to Zhai will remain.