Cambridge University Press Removes Academic Articles on Chinese Site

A petition was launched protesting Cambridge University Press’s decision last week to block access to politically sensitive journal articles in China

Cambridge University Press, one of Britain's most respected academic publishers, has blocked online access in China to hundreds of scholarly articles and book reviews on Chinese affairs after coming under pressure from Beijing. Cambridge University Press (CUP) said it had complied with the request "to ensure that other academic and educational materials we publish remain available to researchers and educators in this market".

Cambridge University Press said Friday it had complied with a request to block certain articles from "The China Quarterly" within China.

Pringle published a list on Friday on the journal's website of the censored content, including many articles about the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and the Chinese democracy movement.

“We will not change the nature of our publishing to make content acceptable in China, and we remain committed to ensuring that access to a wide variety of publishing is possible for academics, researchers, students and teachers in this market.”.

Christopher Balding, an associate professor in economics at Peking University HSBC Business School in Shenzhen, said he started the petition to bring pressure on not just CUP, but also universities and academics who interact with China as well as Chinese universities and academics "to stand up to" censorship by the Chinese government. "If the Chinese government decides to censure China Quarterly or any books or journals published by CUP, let it do it, but do not concur in the fabrication of a ghost journal about contemporary China who won't talk about such unimportant events as the early 1960s starvation, Cultural Revolution, or the conflicts in China's border area".

It continued: "We are aware that other publishers have had entire collections of content blocked in China until they have enabled the import agencies to block access to individual articles".

Writing on his blog in a personal capacity, he said: "My view is... that CUP's decision to accede to the demands is a misguided, if understandable, economic decision that does harm to the Press' reputation and integrity".

Academic publications in China were said to have enjoyed more freedom in the past due to limited readership. Members of the academic community were outraged at China's recent aggression, as the government has previously been more tolerant of academics.

China's crackdown on academic freedom has reached the world's oldest publishing house.

Greg Distelhorst and Jessica Chen Weiss have said, "the censored history of China will literally bear the seal of Cambridge University".

But the incident also showed China was making a "powerful" attempt to censor sensitive articles, he said.

"It's a real pity that as China goes out to the world, it is accompanied by restrictions on academic freedom", Pringle told the Times.

Pringle didn't respond to a request for comment from Quartz.

The retraction was announced by Cambridge University, which owns the publisher and the journal, China Quarterly, at the heart of the dispute.

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.

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