As junior students in Chinese colleges take on internships in the summer, some unscrupulous businessmen cannot wait to make a deals with them -- like selling fake internship certificates to them online.
For many students, internships are part of their course work and are directly connected with their credits. In 2015, the Ministry of Education issued a notice, requiring that internship should account for at least 30 percent of all credit hours. Colleges typically ask students to take up internships for a few months to prepare for their future careers.
But if the students don't want to go, there is an easy way out. For just 200 yuan (30 U.S. dollars) or less, you can get whatever internship certificate you like online. The business is obviously illegal, but it exists nevertheless.
On the e-commerce website Taobao.com, one can find many items on sale by searching for "internship certificate." Most of the items are labeled "internship reports" and "designing internship certificates for college students." Some even tout "tailor-made" internship certificates "providing all necessary stamps of any company of your choice."
Xinhua reporters spoke to "Yibaifen," an agent whose details were on Taobao.com and tried to buying an internship certificate. The agent later told Xinhua on instant messaging service WeChat that a certificate would costs 49.9 yuan.
"You can choose any type of company in any city," the agent said. The agent then sent the stamp of a well-known Beijing-based IT company and claimed it is "real" because he "has connections."
"I can give you a discount if you buy two," the agent said.
On Taobao.com, one agent has sold more than 100 fake certificates in the past month, according to a Tianjin newspaper.
To make the fake certificates more authentic, some agents even promise to take follow-up calls from colleges.
On Tencent's instant messaging service QQ, an agent told Xinhua that he is "on call 24-7."
"I put my own phone number on the certificates, so if your teachers call about your internship, I can handle them," the agent said.
Another agent said he has the real stamp of a Beijing advertising company. He declined to confirm whether he is an employee of the company, but did say he "cooperates" with the company, and pays some "commission" to the company for each stamp he puts on the certificates.
But the general manager of the company denied any knowledge of the scam, saying that the company has strict procedures of using its stamp, and that the agent's stamp must be fake.
According to the Criminal Law, fabricating the stamps of government organs and companies could be crimes.
Despite potential punishment, the business thrives, partly because of the demand from college students.
Xiao Mo, an undergraduate at college in Xuzhou City, east China's Jiangsu Province, has bought a fake internship certificate online. She said that her college has "strict demands" on internships, but she does not have time because she needs to prepare for graduate school.
"I really don't have time for any internship," she said. "Besides, my teachers probably won't check the authenticity of the certificate, so it should be no problem."
But Zhang, from a Beijing college, disagrees. Zhang has been working as an intern in a company the entire summer, and said that buying fake certificates is unacceptable.
"Internships are more about strengthening your ability than obtaining a piece of paper," he said. "Buying fake certificates is also unfair for students who work hard."
The phenomenon has fired up an angry discussion online.
"Internships are meant to prepare students for their future jobs, but buying fake certificates only damages their credibility," read one comment.
"It is necessary to get tougher on the businesses, and colleges need to reevaluate their assessment methods for students," said another.
Li Jiaxing, deputy head of the University of International Relations, said that buying fake internship certificates is immoral.
"Colleges need to be credible," Li said. "Anyone caught purchasing fake certificates should be regarded as cheating and be punished accordingly."
Qu Wenyong, with Heilongjiang University, said that providing fake internship certificates could be a violation of the law, and that the government should be dealing with the agents.
"E-commerce websites are also to blame for proving platforms for illegal businesses," he said.