China has ordered a nationwide review of school textbooks after illustrations deemed 'ugly', 'sexually suggestive' and 'secretly pro-American' caused public uproar, media reports said.
The news has alarmed some experts and parents who fear the campaign is turning into a political witch hunt and represents an unnecessary tightening of the country's already stringent censorship of cultural publications, CNN reported.
The drawings, found in a series of mathematics textbooks that have been used by Chinese primary schools for nearly a decade, are controversial for various reasons, the report said.
Some Chinese internet users have criticised the illustrations of children with small, drooping, wide-set eyes and big foreheads as 'ugly', 'offensive' and 'racist'.
Others have been outraged by what they see as sexual connotations in the drawings. Some of the pictures show little boys with a bulge in their pants that looks like the outline of their genitals; in one illustration of children playing a game, one boy has his hands on a girl's chest while another pulls a girl's skirt; in another drawing, a girl's underwear is exposed as she jumps rope, CNN reported.
Internet users have also accused the illustrations of being 'pro-US', because they show several children wearing clothes patterned with stars and stripes and in the colours of the American flag.
One drawing that showed an inaccurate rendering of the stars on the Chinese flag was accused of being "anti-China".
Outrage over the illustrations has dominated Chinese social media discussions since last Thursday, when photos of the drawings first circulated online. Several related hashtags have racked up tens of millions of views on Weibo, China's Twitter-like platform.
Many expressed shock and anger that such "substandard" illustrations had not only made it into textbooks published by the state-owned People's Education Press, the country's biggest textbook publisher founded in 1950, but had gone unnoticed for so many years.
The textbooks have been in use nationwide since 2013, CNN reported.
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