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Those responsible for 'strange' textbook illustrations punished

By ZOU SHUO | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-08-23 09:04
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A photo shows one of the many illustrations of a fourth-grade math textbook published by the People's Education Press that raised eyebrows of netizens who deemed it ugly and inappropriate. [Photo/IC]

After public outcry, investigators found illustrator selection process 'not thorough'

Twenty-seven people have been punished by the Ministry of Education for dereliction of duty after textbook illustrations published by People's Education Press caused a public outcry for being ugly and containing inappropriate material, the ministry said on Monday.

Huang Qiang, Party secretary and head of People's Education Press, was given a serious warning and demerit, while the editor-in-chief of the publisher, Guo Ge, was removed from the post and given a serious warning and demerit, the ministry said in a release.

Two other people were also removed from their posts and 17 were given disciplinary punishment, the release said.

Tian Huisheng, director of the ministry's department for national textbooks, was issued a warning and demerit by the ministry. Five other officials at the department were given disciplinary punishment.

Three people, Wu Yong, Lyu Min and Lyu Jingren and their studios that were responsible for creating the textbook illustrations, are no longer allowed to design national textbooks.

The cartoon illustrations in math textbooks used by primary school students caused an outcry after they were posted online in May, and the hashtags on the illustrations became top trending topics on social media platforms for days.

Many people found the images offensive and unpleasant, saying the students depicted had small eyes and strange facial expressions.

The ministry launched a thorough investigation headed by senior officials into the incident.

The investigation found that the illustrations were "not beautiful and uplifting" and did not conform to public aesthetic ideas. Some of the illustrated figures were "ugly" and did not reflect the bright and uplifting image of Chinese children.

Certain illustrations had mistakes and some may have caused misunderstanding, the release said, though some of the pictures posted online were not from the textbooks.

The publisher's selection process of illustrators was not thorough and well-regulated, its review process was not strict and it did not value readers' suggestions, the ministry said.

The ministry's department for national textbooks did not give enough review, guidance and supervision on the textbooks, it added.

However, the investigation did not find any economic benefits being transferred between the illustrators, designers and the publisher.

In a separate release, the ministry stressed that the publisher has finished redoing the textbook illustrations and all new textbooks will be available before the new semester begins in September.

The new illustrations have been revised seven times, reviewed three times and approved by the National Textbook Committee, the release said.

The ministry has asked 350 experts to conduct comprehensive reviews of all 2,487 sets of textbooks used by primary and secondary school students.

The publisher said in a release on Monday that the new illustrations were made by the Central Academy of Fine Arts, and stick to the correct political direction, promote traditional Chinese culture, conform to mainstream aesthetics and follow the cognitive and developmental habits of children.

Founded in 1950, People's Education Press is administered by the Ministry of Education and is the "national team and major force" for textbook-compiling for primary and secondary school students. It is the most comprehensive publisher in China and has remained the largest publisher in terms of economic revenue for many years, according to its website.

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