CUP row 'shows need for new approach to Chinese censors'


It said it had blocked the articles, which covered topics including the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests, the 1960s Cultural Revolution and Tibet, in order to keep its other academic and educational materials available in the country.

Cambridge University Press also posted the statement in Chinese on mainland blogging site Weibo.

An open online petition calling for CUP to refuse all censorship requests from the Chinese government published by Christopher Balding, an academic at Peking University's HSBC School of Business in Shenzhen, had garnered more than 700 signatories before the publisher's change of heart.

Tim Pringle, China Quarterly's editor, told the BBC that CUP's initial decision showed "a deeper underlying issue around the contradiction between academic freedom and the allure of the Chinese market". "It is disturbing to academics and universities worldwide that China is attempting to export its censorship on topics that do not fit its preferred narrative".

Cambridge University Press is reposting hundreds of politically sensitive articles that had been taken down from the publisher's website in China at the request of the Chinese government.

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The publisher initially claimed that it had to remove the articles because it was anxious that Chinese authorities would block the entire journal if it didn't.

According to both statements, Cambridge University Press says it will meet with the agency that requested the removals later this week.

The CUP's presence in China has been a positive thing, even if it comes with some imposed restrictions from China, "but you do not censor yourself, that's a basic principle", he said.

"The works CUP is now censoring from China Quarterly were researched and written by scholars from around the world who believed that upon acceptance these works would actually appear in the journal and not be removed willy-nilly", he added.

News about the decision by CUP, the centuries-old publishing arm of Cambridge University, set off a torrent of criticism including from overseas scholars of Chinese affairs.

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Under President Xi Jinping, Beijing has stepped up censorship and tightened controls on the internet and various aspects of civil society, as well as reasserting Communist Party authority over academia and other institutions.

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", Dr Balding said. "And this is what Chinese authorities are doing now, working for the future".

In response to the CUP decision and ensuing protests, the Chinese state-sanctioned Global Times newspaper wrote in an editorial on Sunday: "Western institutions have the freedom to choose". Index monitors pressures on academic freedom around the world, and has also been covering the pressure coming from China to stop access to materials and information reaching the public over the years.

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

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