Students in China taking their gaokao university exams -- an important college entrance exam similar to the SAT in the U.S. -- reportedly received a warning that they would be subject to up to seven years in prison if they were caught cheating on the test.
This year marks the first time that jail sentences have been threatened to those caught cheating on the gaokao, according to Time magazine. The test has had an infamous reputation for cheating in recent years, with some schools even facing accusations of coordinated cheating between students and teachers.
The gaokao is seen as a hugely important moment for students in China, where parents, especially those from lower-income families, hope that their children's performance on the test will help them gain admittance to a competitive university, which will then hopefully lead to a high-paying job.
The testing sites already feature surveillance drones that seek out radio signals from the testing facility that may contain test information, as well as iris and fingerprint scanning technology, used to prevent students from paying someone else to take their test for them.
The most recent development in China's efforts to curb gaokao cheating is a new set of rules stating that anyone caught cheating will be banned from retaking the test for a number of years, and, notably, anyone caught paying someone to take their test for them or otherwise facilitating mass cheating will face up to seven years of jail time.
Wang Yiran, 19, who studies at Yangtze University, criticized the new law, saying that it will discourage students from reporting cheaters because of fear that they will end up sending a fellow student to jail.
"It’s simply too strict," Wang told the New York Times. "Because the punishment is so severe, no one will want to say anything."
Some have also criticized the length of the jail sentence, saying that the punishment is too harsh.
"That's almost the same as the punishment for a hit and run," wrote one user on Chinese social network Weibo, which is similar to Twitter, according to the Times.
Others said they see the new rules positively, explaining that they will help to curtail would-be cheaters.
"So many students cheated the year I took my gaokao and if cheating were treated as a criminal offense then, I would be much better off than I am now," wrote another user on Weibo, Time magazine reports. "I think there are many victims like me."