A book written by a top Chinese police officer is being investigated after it provoked national ridicule for its repetitive and rudimentary content.
The 336-page Ping’an Jing, or Peace Mantra, this week prompted a rare open public debate about officialdom after photographs of its content started to circulate online. Published last December, it was penned by He Dian, the second most powerful officer in the public security department in the northeastern province of Jilin, whom the force has described as an intellectual.
A chapter titled “Let China’s railway stations be safe” reads: “Let Beijing Railway Station be safe, let Xi’an Railway Station be safe, let Zhengzhou Railway Station be safe, let Shanghai’s Hongqiao Railway Station be safe …”
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Yet despite its content, the book was endorsed and recommended by a long list of local government offices and Communist Party-approved groups after being cleared for publication by the state-controlled publishing watchdog.
The province’s department of emergency management had said on social media that the book was “worth a read”. Jilin’s Recital Association, a state-led group, held a seminar last month about the book, featuring more than a dozen local scholars and poets.
State media outlets in the province even circulated a review of the book that claimed that reading it could improve officials’ understanding of why they entered public service, and help scholars’ grasp of philosophy.
All books in China need to be screened and approved by publishers overseen by a state watchdog. Those deemed politically sensitive by the Chinese authorities are sometimes withdrawn from shelves after going on sale.
The provincial Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog said on Wednesday that it was looking into the situation, but did not say whether the police officer faced a corruption probe.
The provincial police department held a meeting on Wednesday night at which it said it supported the party committee’s decision to investigate. He, the author, “profoundly criticised himself” at the meeting, the police force said via social media, without elaborating.
Before the meeting, the force tried to distance itself from the book, telling mainland media that it was finished while He was off duty.
Telephone calls to the provincial government’s press office went unanswered.
Public discussion of the book on Chinese social media focused on what many saw as China’s elephant in the room: a perceived expectation to lavishly flatter the country’s powerful figures.
“A toddler could write this mantra,” Han Dong, a Weibo columnist, wrote. “Why did so many people praise it? Don’t they know it’s a joke? They are praising power.”
Han went on to ask whether there were secret dealings behind the publishing contract, given its price of 299 yuan (US$43), fairly high for a book published in China. The 469-page volume I of President Xi Jinping’s book The Governance of China is priced at 80 yuan.
Chuangchunfenghuotai, a Weibo user, wrote: “It’s not only a sign of cultural deprivation, but also a snapshot of how officials put on political shows.”
Lu Jin, a television host and writer, wrote: “There are countless examples like this among the officials, and they almost don’t seem embarrassing until they are made public. Like if one leader at the table said he likes the fatty pork, everyone else at the table will praise the pork and have a few big bites.”
In his résumé on the provincial police force’s website, and in coverage by local media, He is described as an intellectual with a doctoral degree, more than 30 published books and frequent contributions to top domestic academic journals to his name.
The book’s publisher, Qunzhong, said in a statement on Thursday that the incident had revealed its insufficient “political awareness”, and caused “bad impacts on society”. Based in Beijing and affiliated with the Ministry of Public Security, it said it had learned a hard lesson and would “strengthen the regulation of books”.
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This article ‘A toddler could write this’: Chinese policeman’s book, praised by authorities, is ridiculed first appeared on South China Morning Post