A second academic journal is facing the removal of approximately 100 articles from the Chinese website of the Cambridge University Press (CUP). On Monday, CUP reversed course on its decision to remove 315 “sensitive” articles from journal China Quarterly after being accused of giving into pressure from the Chinese government.
The Association for Asian Studies said in a statement on Monday that CUP had received a request from China’s General Administration of Press and Publications to omit approximately 100 articles from the Journal of Asian Studies (JAS). JAS, a publication of the association and CUP, covers empirical and multidisciplinary work on Asia, spanning the arts, history, literature, the social sciences, and cultural studies.
As of Monday, no JAS articles have been removed from CUP’s China website, according to the association.
“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,” the statement said.
“We oppose censorship in any form and continue to promote a free exchange of academic research among scholars around the world.”
Chorus of condemnation
Last week, CUP was given a list of China Quarterly articles and book reviews pertaining to topics such as the Tiananmen Massacre, the Cultural Revolution, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan to remove from its website in China. The move came a few months after a similar request was made for the publisher to remove 1,000 of its e-books from the site.
Academics around the world were quick to air their criticism as a petition launched by Peking University academic Christopher Balding gathered pace, threatening a boycott. Within two days, the petition was signed by more than 1,000 individuals.
On Monday, the University of Cambridge said in a statement that the initial decision to block the 315 articles from China Quarterly had been made “reluctantly.”
“This decision was taken as a temporary measure pending discussion with the academic leadership of the University and a scheduled meeting with the Chinese importer in Beijing,” said the statement.
— Cambridge University (@Cambridge_Uni) August 21, 2017
“Academic freedom is the overriding principle on which the University of Cambridge is based. Therefore, while this temporary decision was taken in order to protect short-term access in China to the vast majority of the Press’s journal articles, 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.”
Cambridge University Press also posted the statement in Chinese on mainland blogging site Weibo. However, the post appears to have been taken down, according to Chinese author Fang Shimin.
— 方舟子 (@fangshimin) August 22, 2017
Editor of China Quarterly Tim Pringle said in a Guardian op-ed that the journal was “delighted” by CUP’s decision to repost the articles. However, Pringle said that the incident on the whole was indicative of the Chinese government’s new strategy to clamp down on academic scholarship.
“The evidence of new regulatory, and apparently ideological, constraints on academic freedom and public engagement in China that have emerged since 2012 – under the leadership of Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang – suggest that the parlous state of affairs with regard to academic freedom is policy-driven. What is unprecedented is that its reach has now stretched to international institutions such as Cambridge University Press.”
HKFP has contacted the Association for Asian Studies for a list of the JAS articles that have been requested to be removed.