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2022-06-06 08:01:34

A county in the southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region has withdrawn the country’s most authoritative Chinese language dictionary as local authorities initiated a campaign to “purify the reading environment for minors.”

The 11th edition of the Xinhua Dictionary, along with a few other children’s books, were removed from the shelves in Quanzhou County for including “vulgar content,” according to a now-deleted article posted by the local procuratorate Thursday. Authorities didn’t specify the dictionary entries that were deemed vulgar, but many online had accused the dictionary of using sexist explanations to describe certain words.

For example, the word “tease” was explained using derogatory references to women.

The move came after a county-wide inspection of school textbooks and children’s books on June 1.

Last week, China’s top education authority issued a nationwide review of school textbooks in response to controversial illustrations in sixth grade math textbooks. However, the inspections in Quanzhou were initiated by local authorities instead of the central government.

The deleted article was accompanied by several photos, showing two local procuratorate officials in uniform flipping through a copy of the Xinhua Dictionary at a bookstore and photographing the content deemed objectionable. Many online criticized the action as “performative law enforcement.”

On Sunday, the municipal procuratorate in Guilin, which administers Quanzhou County, determined the action as a “misconduct.” The statement didn’t elaborate further and asked Quanzhou officials to make the dictionary available again in stores.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Local procuratorate officials in uniform check a copy of the Xinhua Dictionary at a bookstore in Quanzhou County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, June 1, 2022. From Weibo)