Outcry as UK Publisher Censors Content for China


Outcry as UK Publisher Censors Content for China

A leading British academic publisher that bowed to pressure from Beijing to block online access to hundreds of scholarly articles in China reversed its position and reposted the material on Monday, following an outcry over academic freedom.

“We complied with this initial request to remove individual articles, to ensure that other academic and educational materials we publish remain available to researchers and educators in this market, ” CQ said in a statement.

“We will not change the nature of our publishing to make content acceptable in China, and we remain committed to ensuring that access to a wide variety of publishing is possible for academics, researchers, students and teachers in this market.”.

The editor of the periodical, China Quarterly, said in a statement that the publisher had made the U-turn after a "justifiably intense reaction from the global academic community". "It is not the role of respected global publishing houses such as CUP to hinder such access".

Arthur Waldron, a China specialist at the University of Pennsylvania whose China Quarterly article on warlordism versus feudalism was on the blacklist, said: "This is a very, very wise decision on Cambridge's part because Cambridge, for hundreds of years has been the gold standard for scholarly publishing, and if they allow one country to say "you can't publish this here", they open the door to ... interventions and complaints".

Cambridge University said the move to block content had been a "temporary decision".

"Academic freedom is the overriding principle on which the University of Cambridge is based", the press said in a statement on Twitter.

Cambridge University had previously denied that Chong Hua has links to the Chinese government, but new information recently received by The Telegraph indicates that the foundation is controlled by Wen Ruchun, the daughter of China's former prime minister, the paper reported in 2014. "Attaching your name and reputation to a censored history is to be complicit in creating it", said Greg Distelhorst, a professor at MIT in the United States. "The fear is that it won't be the last time that Western academia is the target". The issue of censorship in China and other regions is not a short-term issue and therefore requires a longer-term approach.

Reza Hasmath, a professor at the University of Alberta, in Canada, who has written on sensitive subjects such as ethnicity and civil society in China, said the reposting of the articles was a positive "symbolic" move.

"CUP should definitely not accept to devise its own "light" version of China Quarterly or any other publications".

Pringle didn't respond to a request for comment from Quartz.

Nevertheless, CUP affirmed its commitment to expanding freedom to publish in China, saying that it "will continue to take every opportunity to influence this agenda".

The furor comes against a tightening of controls by Chinese President Xi Jinping's government over a wide range of groups that could feed opposition to the ruling Communist Party, including lawyers who take on sensitive cases, non-governmental organizations and churches.