Chinese authorities have punished 27 people for publishing a maths textbook that became popular with “tragically ugly” illustrations. The Guardian reports: A months-long investigation by an education ministry task force found the books were “ugly” and some of the illustrations were “very ugly” and did not “adequately reflect the sunny image of Chinese children”. The math textbooks were published by People’s Education Press nearly 10 years ago and are reportedly being used in elementary schools across the country. But they went viral in May after a teacher posted photos of the artwork inside, including people with distorted faces and bulging pants, photos of boys grabbing girls’ skirts and at least one child with an apparent leg tattoo.

Social media users were largely amused by the illustrations, but many also criticized them as a disgrace and “cultural destruction” of China, suggesting they were the deliberate work of Western infiltrators in the education sector. The relevant hashtags were viewed billions of times, embarrassing the Communist Party and education authorities, who announced a review of all textbooks “to ensure that the textbooks follow the correct political direction and value orientation.”

In a wide-ranging statement issued on Monday, education authorities said 27 people had been found to have “failed to fulfill their duties and responsibilities” and had been punished, including the publishing house’s president, who received formal demerits that could affect his party membership status and future employment. The editor-in-chief and the editor-in-chief of the mathematics department were also recognized as deficient and removed from their positions. The statement said the illustrators and designers were “handled appropriately,” but did not provide details. They and their studios will no longer be involved in textbook design or similar work, the report said. The highly critical statement identified a number of problems with the books, including criticism of the size, number and quality of illustrations, some of which had “scientific and regulatory concerns”.

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