The report of the European Association of Chinese Studies (EACS) unveiled how China meddled in a recent international academic conference in Portugal when it disagreed with its contents — by taking back funds, demanding the alteration of conference materials and even removing documents.
Along with the report released on Friday last week, the Paris-based institution released its “letter of protest at interference,” in which it called the behavior “unacceptable” and said that it would never bow to censorship efforts by any sponsor, under any circumstances.
The report was published on the association’s Web site in line with a promise from EACS president Roger Greatrex to the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange late last month. Greatrex pledged that the association would look into the removal of a page with information on the foundation from brochures for the EACS biennial in Portugal, held from July 22 to July 24.
The report said that Sun Lam, the EACS conference co-organizer at the University of Minho, Portugal, sent a draft copy of the contents of the brochure, what it called the conference program, to the Confucius China Studies Program (CCSP) for comment before publication.
Sun Lam requested funding for certain costs arising from the EACS conference from the CCSP, including the printing of copies of another document, the conference abstracts, but the production of the conference program was covered entirely by the fees paid by EACS members, the report said.
The report said that about 100 participants who registered on July 22 received complete copies of the program and abstracts, while the other 300 participants who registered the next day after the arrival of Xu Lin (許琳), director-general of the Hanban, the common name of the Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language at China’s Ministry of Education, which operates the CCSP, did not receive the conference program.
Xu said that there were some abstracts whose contents were contrary to Chinese regulations, and demanded that mention of the support of the CCSP be removed from the abstracts, the report said, adding that she was also annoyed at what she considered to be the limited extent of the Confucius Institute publicity and disliked the page on the foundation.
The report added that Xu ordered her entourage to remove all the conference materials from the conference venue and take them to the apartment of one of the Chinese teachers employed at the Confucius Institute at the university.
After negotiations with Xu, Sun Lam agreed to the removal of the first page in the abstracts, on which it was stated that the volume was produced with the support of the CCSP, with the condition that all the funding received from the CCSP be returned to the CCSP.
Xu then permitted the abstracts to be distributed to conference participants, the report said.
Xu insisted that the program that contained the page with the Taipei-based foundation’s information could not be made available to the conference participants and requested that the page be altered to a large logo of the foundation without text, the report said.
Sun Lam discussed Xu’s request with Carmen Mendes, the conference co-organizer from Coimbra University, the report said.
Mendes rejected the alteration proposed by Xu, but allowed the page about the foundation to be removed in the interest of enabling the conference staff in the University of Minho to distribute the program because it contained essential information for conference participants, the report said.