Tue, Nov 14, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Australian publisher delays book on Chinese influence

Reuters, BEIJING

One of Australia’s largest independent publishers on Sunday said it had decided to delay the publication of a book which alleges widespread Chinese government influence in Australian institutions due to legal concerns.

Sydney-based Allen & Unwin said in a statement that it decided to delay publication of Silent Invasion following “extensive legal advice.”

It said the book’s author, Clive Hamilton, was unwilling to delay publication and requested the return of the book’s rights.

Hamilton said the publisher’s chief executive, Robert Gorman, sent him an e-mail on Wednesday saying that the reason for the delay was due to concerns over possible legal action by Beijing.

The e-mail from Gorman, which was seen by reporters, said the scheduled publishing date in April next year “was too soon to publish the book and allow us to adequately guard against potential threats to the book and the company from possible action by Beijing.”

The e-mail cited fears of a “defamation action.”

Allen & Unwin’s statement did not specify which court cases it was referring to. Gorman did not respond to requests for comment.

Hamilton, an Australian who has previously published eight books with Allen & Unwin, said the “shadow cast by Beijing is enough to make them so nervous about the consequences of publishing criticism of the Communist Party.”

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop yesterday said that while she was unaware of the specific contractual details between the author and publisher, she “would be concerned if there were any attempts to stifle free speech in Australia, particularly at the behest of a foreign government.”

Concern in Australia that Beijing might be extending its influence in the country has become a topic of political debate and media coverage over the past year. In June, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Fairfax Media, publisher of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, published reports saying that there was a concerted campaign by China and its proxies to “infiltrate” the Australian political process and institutions to promote Chinese interests.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said the claims were “totally unfounded and irresponsible.”

Australian Attorney-General George Brandis in June said that “the threat of political interference by foreign intelligence services is a problem of the highest order and is getting worse.”

He said the Australian government had conducted a “comprehensive review” and planned to strengthen the country’s espionage and foreign interference laws.

Hamilton said his book was the “first comprehensive national study of Beijing’s program of exerting influence on another nation.”

The book documents the influence and penetration of the CCP in Australian political parties, universities and cultural organizations, as well as the Chinese diaspora in Australia, he said in a telephone interview.

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