Tue, Aug 22, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Academics call on Cambridge Press not to bow to China


A computer screen in Beijing yesterday shows an online petition page urging Cambridge University Press to restore more than 300 politically sensitive articles removed from its The China Quarterly Web site in China.

Photo: AP

Academics are petitioning Cambridge University Press (CUP) to restore more than 300 politically sensitive articles removed from its Web site in China after a request from authorities, underscoring concerns about freedom of speech and the Chinese government’s increasing leverage over academic organizations.

Cambridge University Press on Friday said that it had complied with a request to block certain articles from The China Quarterly within China that touch on politically sensitive subjects, including the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, the Cultural Revolution and Tibet.

The furor comes amid a tightening of controls by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) government over a wide range of society that could feed opposition to the Chinese Communist Party, including lawyers who take on sensitive cases, non-governmental organizations and churches.

Christopher Balding, an associate professor in economics at Peking University HSBC Business School in Shenzhen, said he started the petition to bring pressure on not just CUP, but also universities and academics who interact with China, as well as Chinese universities and academics, “to stand up to” censorship by the Chinese government.

With Chinese universities increasingly hiring internationally, Beijing is concerned “that these universities are not going to have the ideological adherence to what Beijing wants them to say,” Balding said.

The petition circulating among academics calls on CUP to turn down censorship requests from the Chinese government.

It says that academics and universities reserve the right to boycott CUP and related journals if it gives in to the Chinese government’s demands.

The petition says the academics believe in the free and open exchange of ideas and information, and that it is “disturbing ... that China is attempting to export its censorship on topics that do not fit its preferred narrative.”

“The fundamental driver of this ... is simply to exercise control, to try to impose what they think is the correct way of thinking,” Balding said.

He said that academics in China who really want to read the papers will still be able to access the articles through their networks of colleagues or by skirting the Great Firewall.

However, “the signal is being sent: ‘We don’t want Chinese scholars publishing on this,’” he said. “You will mostly likely see a decline in basically any scholarly work on these particular issues.”

In an open letter posted on Medium, Georgetown University history professor James Millward said CUP’s decision was “a craven, shameful and destructive concession to [China’s] growing censorship regime” and a violation of academic independence.

By yesterday, more than 200 people had signed the three-day-old petition on change.org.

The Global Times newspaper, published by the Chinese Communist Party, said in an editorial yesterday that China blocks some information on foreign Web sites that it deems “harmful” to Chinese society, and that CUP has to abide by Chinese law if it sets up a server within China.

If Western institutions “think China’s Internet market is so important that they can’t miss out, they need to respect Chinese law and adapt to the Chinese way,” the editorial Additional reporting by Reuters

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