Prepare To Be Offended

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“It puts academic freedom where it needs to be, which is ahead of economic concerns,” Professor Pringle said.

Cambridge University Press said in an online statement that its decision to cut the papers had been temporary, ahead of planned talks with the publishing agent that have not been held yet.

“The university’s academic leadership and the press have agreed to reinstate the blocked content, with immediate effect, so as to uphold the principle of academic freedom on which the university’s work is founded,” it said.

Now, though, the press may have to prepare itself for potential repercussions from the Chinese censors, who are unlikely to be happy with the public rebuke and reversal. It was unclear how the 315 academic articles that they said offended official sensibilities would now be censored, if at all.

“If China perceives the reversal as a matter of face or a challenge or whatever, I imagine it will escalate upward and Cambridge University Press will face further issues with China,” said Jonathan Sullivan, a China studies scholar at the University of Nottingham who is on China Quarterly’s executive committee. “It is very gratifying for the China studies community, and the integrity of our field, but the scope of the ‘victory’ is narrow.”

Before we start analysing the detail of this unfortunate episode & gratifying denouement, to everyone who spoke up, cheers https://t.co/BbWcISKWIN

— Jonathan Sullivan (@jonlsullivan) Aug. 21, 2017

China Quarterly has long been one of the world’s most prestigious venues for research on modern China. Increasingly it has published work by scholars in or originally from China. The latest issue of the journal includes papers on ideological currents in journalism education and on political tension in Hong Kong.

But a Chinese agency that manages imported publications told the press to cut papers and book reviews on subjects including Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, the Cultural Revolution and the 1989 crackdown on student-led protests based in Tiananmen Square.

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At first, Cambridge University Press went along.

“We complied with this initial request to remove individual articles, to ensure that other academic and educational materials we publish remain available to researchers and educators in this market,” the press said last week in a statement online.

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Several academics issued letters and statements denouncing the decision, and one started a petition that called for a boycott of the press if it did not reverse its decision.

“As academics, we believe in the free and open exchange of ideas and information on all topics not just those we agree with,” said the petition started by Christopher Balding, an associate professor at the Peking University HSBC Business School in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. “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.”

Professor Balding said in an interview on Monday that he welcomed the latest decision by Cambridge University Press, but that research and publishing still risked buckling to political or economic pressure from China.

“What I hope is that this doesn’t end the discussion among universities, academics, and publishing houses outside of China,” Professor Balding said. “Hopefully, this will prompt greater thinking about how to effectively engage with China. Continued acquiescence is not the answer.”

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Source : https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/21/world/asia/china-quarterly-cambridge-university-press-censorship-publisher-reverses-decision-to-bow-to-chinas-censors.html

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