Cambridge University Press Refuses to Comply With Second Chinese Takedown Request

2017-08-25
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People stand outside the Cambridge University Press stand at the Beijing International Book Fair in Beijing, Aug. 23, 2017
People stand outside the Cambridge University Press stand at the Beijing International Book Fair in Beijing, Aug. 23, 2017
AFP

Chinese censors have made another request to a top academic journal published by Cambridge University Press (CUP) for the removal of online content from a website hosted in China, the Association for Asian Studies said in a statement.

CUP has refused the request from the State Administration of Press and Publications, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), which requested the removal of some 100 articles from the website of the Journal of Asian Studies.

The Association for Asian Studies (AAS) said the request was similar to one made by Chinese authorities to CUP, prompting the publishing house to take down some 300 articles from the China website of the China Quarterly academic journal last week.

CUP has since reinstated the articles, which dealt with politically sensitive topics like the 1989 military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square student movement, Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang, following an online petition by China-related scholars and academics.

"[We have] received notice from CUP that a similar request has been made by [SAPPRFT] concerning approximately 100 articles from the Journal of Asian Studies, an AAS publication," the Association said in a statement on its website.

"The officers of the association are extremely concerned about this violation of academic freedom."

It said no JAS articles had been removed from CUP website search results in China so far.

"We oppose censorship in any form and continue to promote a free exchange of academic research among scholars around the world," the association said.

According to trade publication The Bookseller, Chinese import agencies have begun to take a tougher line on journals, citing growing political pressure from officials.

"The message has apparently been that if offending material from a particular publisher is not withdrawn, all access by that publisher to the China market will cease - a message that does not now bode well for Cambridge University Press," The Bookseller's deputy editor Benedicte Page was quoted as saying during the Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF), which opened on Wednesday.

It said the takedown requests followed reports that officials had removed "politically or culturally sensitive" books from exhibitors' stalls at last year's fair, which officials attributed at the time to a "misunderstanding."

Chinese sovereignty

Meanwhile, CUP said in a statement on Thursday that it would refuse to censor any e-books made available to Chinese buyers.

"Cambridge University Press does not and will not block e-books for the Chinese market," it said via its website. "Cambridge University Press makes its entire catalogue of print and e-books available throughout the world, including to China."

"Chinese importers decide which books they will purchase for resale within China," it said.

The Global Times newspaper, which has close ties to ruling Chinese Communist Party paper the People's Daily, said the journal would have to abide by Chinese laws, if it wanted to expand its business into the China market.

"The CUP can enjoy academic freedom under British law. But overseas media reports that it set up a server in China hoping to explore the Chinese market, which has to abide by the Chinese law," the paper said in an editorial on the China Quarterly takedown request.

"China has blocked some information on foreign websites that it deems harmful to Chinese society. This is for the sake of China's security and is within the scope of China's sovereignty," it said.

"Western institutions have the freedom to choose. If they don't like the Chinese way, they can stop engaging with us," the paper said.

The takedown requests come as the government begins to implement tougher online controls ordered by President Xi Jinping in February, removing any foreign content that hasn't been licensed or pre-approved by government censors.

Last month, SAPPRFT issued takedown notices last week to two popular multimedia websites targeting young people, AcFun and bilibili, removing a slew of overseas TV shows and video content.

China routinely censors 'sensitive' keywords like "June 4, 1989" and "6.4" behind the Great Firewall, although many of the country's 731 million internet users deploy puns and other disguises to mention banned topics.

Typically, searches for blocked content in China return a message apologizing for the non-delivery of search results "in accordance with relevant laws, regulations, and policies," and the deleted China Quarterly articles wouldn't have shown up in search results carried out by users in China.

Reported by RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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Francis

Congratulations to the Association for Asian Studies for its unequivocal response to the ham-handed PRC censorship demand regarding dozens of articles in the AAS's Journal of Asian Studies. Acquiescence to such autocratic demands for censorship would amount to a serious violation of academic freedom.

Aug 28, 2017 04:44 PM

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