The Great Scrawl of China

Photograph by Gilles Sabrie for TIME

The letters of the law His online writing means that police officer Li gets barely four hours' sleep a night, but it nets him three times his official salary

As Li Ke tells it, the police station in the steel-mill county of Xiangyuan is like any other in central China. The air is heavy with industrial dust. Steam rises from mugs of tea. At their desks, idling officers, cell phones in hand, scroll absorbedly through the latest installments of their favorite online novels. Huddled with them is Li, a shy, chubby policeman with a schoolboy buzz cut. Unbeknownst to his colleagues, the 29-year-old also happens to be a prize-winning Internet author whose latest tale features a cop with superpowers who leads a double life. Once, a fellow officer...

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