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Chinese Education Ministry Promises ‘Zero Tolerance’ in Actor Plagiarism Case

By Zhao Runhua / Feb 15, 2019 05:04 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

“Zero tolerance” will be granted for actor Zhai Tianlin if he is found guilty of academic dishonesty, China’s Ministry of Education said Friday, after the film star’s questionable credentials sparked heated national debate.

Xu Mei, the ministry’s spokesperson, said the ministry believed investigators looking into allegations against Zhai would take the case “very carefully and seriously,” according to the state-run People’s Daily.

Zhai, who appeared before 1.2 billion viewers in this year’s CCTV Spring Festival Gala on Feb. 4, has been accused of dishonestly obtaining his academic qualifications, which include an impressive-sounding doctorate from the prestigious Beijing Film Academy (BFA). Zhai was also accused of plagiarizing an article written by another academic.

The Ministry of Education rarely comments on controversies involving individual celebrities, but Zhai’s case has raised broader concerns about double standards for celebrities and ordinary students.

Zhai’s representatives initially denied claims that he hadn’t met BFA’s degree qualification criteria. But the actor, who is also a post-doctoral research fellow at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management, published an apology letter Thursday.

Without mentioning plagiarism or any specific wrongdoing, Zhai said he was sorry his actions had harmed his schools’ reputations and disappointed the public. “Vanity and a belief that I wouldn't get caught caused me to lose my way,” Zhai said in the letter, adding that he will withdraw from the Guanghua School of Management.

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