Primary School in China's Shandong Calls on Parents to Search Out Foreign Books

Teachers say the ruling party wants to control everything children are reading, even outside of school.
Primary School in China's Shandong Calls on Parents to Search Out Foreign Books Students draw an image commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party on the ground in Qingzhou, in China's eastern Shandong province, June 24, 2021

Authorities in some parts of China are banning primary school students from reading "unauthorized" books in their spare time, according to social media posts and a local resident.

The Chengde primary school in Qingyun county in the eastern province of Shandong recently wrote to parents calling them to check that their children didn't possess any banned books.

"Please conduct a thorough search for religious books, reactionary books, homegrown reprints or photocopies of books published overseas, and for any books or audio and video content not officially printed and distributed by Xinhua Bookstore," the school said in a recent circular letter to parents, according to screenshots posted to social media.

The notice said grade teachers were to be responsible for the responses of class teachers to the order, while class captains were responsible for students' responses.

"Nothing and nobody should be missed in our search," the notice said. "Relevant staff will in future pay close attention to book corners and library ... [to root out] non-Xinhua books and audiovisual materials."

"Please pay special attention to this political work," the notice read.

A former high-school teacher surnamed Wang from the central city of Zhengzhou in Henan province said the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) doesn't want children to come into contact with any materials not previously approved by the authorities.

"They are afraid that the students may learn certain truths, given that overseas publications aren't subject to the control fo the central propaganda department," Wang said. "All teaching materials must be reviewed by the ministry of education, and they will delete even one or two words if they have an issue with them."

"You are only allowed to read what the government wants you to read," she said. "It's about monitoring and control."

"Some of the names of high-ranking CCP leaders are now sensitive words, which means that the students can't contact them," Wang said.

Retired Shanghai teacher Gu Guoping said the government is keen to instil a love of the CCP in students.

"They had never asked this before at my daughter's school, but lates they asked her what she was reading at home, and whether she had any foreign publications," Gu said. "I think this is definitely a new development."

"The controls are much tighter now; far more so than under [the leadership of former president] Hu [Jintao] and [former premier] Wen [Jiabao]," he said. "This is definitely a retrograde step."

"It's like the Cultural Revolution all over again," Gu said, in a reference to the Mao-era movement that saw denunciatory "struggle sessions," kangaroo courts, beatings and summary executions, factional armed conflict and the replacement of doctors and teachers with unqualified "revolutionaries" between 1966 and 1976.

The CCP has stepped up security measures and clamped down on any form of public dissent ahead of its centenary celebration on July 1.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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