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Academics and publishers rebel against censorship requests from China

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After Cambridge University Press (CUP), one of the world’s oldest publishing houses, first censored and then un-censored 315 academic articles from its China Quarterly journal at the behest of Chinese authorities, it has been revealed that two other academic outlets have also been pressured to self-censor in China. Academics, journals, and institutions around the world are expressing alarm at the further suffocation of freedom of speech in the People’s Republic.

  • The Journal of Asian Studies, also published by CUP, said “authorities asked its publisher remove about 100 articles from its website in mainland China,” but that “the request was refused,” the SCMP reports.
  • Reuters reports that LexisNexis, a “provider of legal, regulatory and business information,” revealed that “earlier this year LexisNexis Business Insight Solutions in China was asked to remove some content from its database.” The statement continues, “In March 2017, the company withdrew two products (Nexis and LexisNexis Academic) from the Chinese market.”

Academic societies and scholars are even less happy with Chinese authorities than usual.

  • The Association for Asian Studies published a statement in response to CUP’s censorship battle with Chinese authorities: “The officers of the association are extremely concerned about this violation of academic freedom, and the AAS is in ongoing discussions with CUP about how it will respond to the Chinese government.”
  • Dr. Michiel Kolman, president of the International Publishers Association, gave a statement in support of CUP and against Chinese censorship, the Guardian reports. He added, “There is no upside to censorship — it simply hampers human progress and stimulates fear and resentment.”
  • Noted China scholar Geremie R. Barmé observes a larger, dispiriting trend of a resurgence of a “burn the books, bury the scholars” tactic taken in China’s past. He writes that “under the rule of China’s Chairman of Everything, Xi Jinping, a man who has more than a little of Mao about him, the noose has been tightening once more. No books have been burned yet (but who knows how many manuscripts have been relegated by the censors to data death on hard drives or to the desk draw, where they lie in wait for some future relaxation?).”

Predictably, news of CUP’s decision to defy censors was — you guessed it — censored in China. Read the Guardian’s summary of that development, and in the same publication see an op-ed from Tim Pringle, editor of the China Quarterly journal, which was originally censored last week.


Lucas Niewenhuis

Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company's newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.