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2020-07-29 10:36:07

Update: On July 31, after He Dian’s book “Peace Mantra” was widely criticized by Chinese media and netizens, the party committee of Jilin province removed him from two official posts.

A book by a senior public security official in the northeastern Jilin province was billed as a collection of meditative verses. This week, however, it has drawn fire after Chinese netizens accused it of being a copy-paste extravaganza.

Authored by He Dian, deputy head of Jilin’s public security department, “Ping’an Jing” — or “Peace Mantra” — claims to be filled with soothing chants that take readers on a spiritual journey. But the book began drawing unwanted attention after a user on microblogging platform Weibo posted photos of its contents Monday.

“Let Xi’an North Railway Station be safe, let Zhengzhou East Railway Station be safe, let Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station be safe,” reads a scintillating section of the book, intended as a prayer for the safety of China’s public spaces. Parts of another chapter are similarly repetitive, with verses like “peace of ears, peace of nose, peace of tongue, peace of body, peace of mind.”

Staff at the provincial public security department told Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper that the book was He’s personal project, and declined to make him available for an interview. Provincial authorities said Wednesday that a team had been appointed to probe the matter.

People’s Publishing House — the publisher of “Peace Mantra,” according to its title page — told domestic media that it had not published any book by that name, and is looking into the case as potential fraud.

Despite the book’s seemingly uninspired content, Jilin authorities have lauded “Peace Mantra,” inviting experts and scholars to a discussion about it last month, according to The Paper, citing a local media report that had described the book as “rich in content, all-encompassing, and good for use as a small encyclopedic dictionary.”

However, many online have criticized the book as “meaningless” and of no value to its readers. Some have also accused He of using his high position to publish a book for the sake of vanity.

“The ‘Peace Mantra’ exposes a group of bootlickers who flatter authority,” one user wrote under a related post on Weibo. “What’s up with this book? Even young kids could write this. Why are so many people touting it? Don’t they know this book is a joke? What they’re touting is authority and power.”

Hu Xijin, the outspoken editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times newspaper, also weighed in on the matter Tuesday.

“If ‘Peace Mantra’ is published by the author at his own expense, or if it holds market value, then there’s nothing to say: After all, it’s just blessing all things with peace,” Hu wrote on Weibo. “But if it’s being treated as a mainstream work, that would be a bit absurd. And using the political system’s resources to promote and tout it would not be right.”

Earlier this year, another publication was widely criticized for its content. Chinese academic Xu Zhongmin’s unearthed 2013 paper on ecology was widely mocked for repeatedly praising his faculty mentor’s sublime marriage.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: People Visual)