lundi 21 août 2017

China’s bid to block my journal’s articles is a new attack on academic freedom

Cambridge University Press was asked to suppress articles in China Quarterly. It has now resisted, but it is a worrying development
By Tim Pringle

The furore that followed CUP’s compliance with ‘an instruction from a Chinese import agency made one thing very clear. Academic freedom remains the absolute core concern.’

The international furore that followed Cambridge University Press’s compliance with “an instruction from a Chinese import agency to block individual articles from China Quarterly” made one thing very clear. 
Academic freedom remains the absolute core concern of scholars all over the world.
This morning I met CUP officials and conveyed the message in forthright terms: the 315 articles that the academic publisher had removed from its internet portals in China should be re-posted as soon as possible and made available free of charge. 
At no point did China Quarterly, which I edit, consent to removal of the articles and we are delighted at CUP’s reversal of the decision.
As a researcher of labour relations in China for 20 years, I have grown accustomed to the shifting boundaries of what is and is not possible. 
The first decade of China’s “going out” this century was marked by an increase in public engagement and an expansion of research. 
Partnerships between Chinese and international universities were forged. 
The opportunities for creating new knowledge, a lofty-sounding but nevertheless key goal of academic research, blossomed.
For sure, Chinese partners still faced constraints. 
And non-Chinese academics researching sensitive areas such as Xinjiang and Tibet, human rights, or the tragic end to the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 had visas denied and fieldwork hampered or blocked.
But these were nevertheless exciting times to be an academic working on China. 
They were accompanied by an equally important expansion in environmental movements, labour campaigns and gender equality, and the appearance of a courageous cohort of lawyers prepared to work on human rights cases.
An important outcome of the increased opportunities for academic exchanges was access to information. 
The numbers of non-Chinese able to access and read Chinese-language materials increased. 
The numbers of Chinese able to access non-Chinese materials – inevitably, and unfortunately, it is mainly in English – has exploded. 
This has had a positive impact on Chinese scholarship published in both languages.
China Quarterly has been run from Soas, University of London, for more than 50 years, and I have been fortunate to come into contact with some of the world’s leading academics working on China. 
In the first years of the new millennium the internet emerged as a powerful research tool, and authoritarian government in China was reconfiguring itself as pragmatic, innovative and open to non-Communist party voices. 
But this scholarship is now under threat.
The previous era of relative openness was qualified by targeted repression of those who crossed party-defined boundaries, such as Liu Xiaobo, who died in prison earlier this year. 
He was sentenced for his part in the pro-democracy manifesto Charter 08.
The now re-posted articles had gone through a rigorous “double-blind” peer-review process and represent some of the best contributions to “new knowledge” on China. 
Some of the authors are globally renowned scholars, others are early-career academics. 
Access to such research has hugely enriched Chinese scholarship, just as scholarship outside China has been hugely enriched by the response of China’s academic community to this work.
This attempt to deny access might be the result of over-reach by Chinese censorship bodies such as the recently created General Administration of Press and Publication. 
But I fear it is the outcome of a much stronger shade of authoritarian government that excludes voices from outside the party-led system. 
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.
The key criteria for publication in our journal will not change – academic rigour and contribution to new knowledge. 
The topics we publish will not take into account the political sensitivities of any government. 
And as editor, I will work harder than ever to disseminate our articles as widely as possible.

Tim Pringle is a senior lecturer in development studies at Soas, University of London, and editor of China Quarterly

After Criticism, Publisher Reverses Decision to Bow to China’s Censors

BEIJING — One of the world’s leading academic publishers, Cambridge University Press, on Monday abruptly reversed its decision to bow to censorship of a leading journal on contemporary China, after its’ agreement to remove offending papers from its website in China ignited condemnation from academics.
The Cambridge University Press said last week that it had gone along with demands from a Chinese publishing import agency and cut 315 papers from the online version of the journal, China Quarterly, that can be read in China.
Academics criticized the decision as a worrisome intrusion of censorship into international academic research where the Chinese government has become increasingly energetic in pushing its views, and in discouraging work that offends it.
The pressure from academics worked.
Tim Pringle, the editor of China Quarterly, said on Twitter that the press “intends to repost immediately the articles removed from its website in China.”
Professor Pringle, said the decision had come “after a justifiably intense reaction from the global academic community and beyond.”
Dr. Pringle said in a telephone interview from London that Cambridge University Press would also make the reposted papers available for free, doing away with the hefty charge that one-time readers of the site must usually pay.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.”

Bannon exit a reminder of China’s success in ‘containing Trump’

By Tom Mitchell in Beijing

Steve Bannon, who has been fired as White House chief strategist

Shortly after Donald Trump met Xi Jinping for the first time at his Florida resort, a senior Chinese government official wondered aloud if the US president’s most important domestic political adviser really saw Beijing as an enemy, let alone the enemy. 
“But Steve Bannon spent years [working] at Goldman Sachs,” the official protested in a conversation with the Financial Times.
“He also reads widely and understands history. I don’t think he will be that radical.” 
Last week the ruling Chinese Communist party had its answer.
In what turned out to be his swansong interview just before he was fired, Mr Bannon said the US was engaged in a winner-take-all “economic war” with China.
He added that he fought “every day” with another Goldman Sachs alumnus, White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, and other administration figures who sought a more moderate approach towards dealing with America’s principal geopolitical rival. 
Mr Bannon’s abrupt departure is a reminder that Beijing’s strategy for “containing Trump” has so far been a successful one.
But it is also a strategy that has benefited greatly from that most precious of commodities — luck.  As it stands, Chinese officials cannot believe their luck, beginning with Mr Trump’s decision to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement on his first full day in office. 
The TPP would have locked the US and China’s largest Asian trading partners in a formidable economic block from which Beijing was initially excluded.
In the likely event that the Chinese government later applied for TPP entry, Washington would have had its best opportunity to pry open the China market since Beijing asked to join the World Trade Organisation in the late 1990s. 
As one disappointed US diplomat told the FT earlier this year: “We threw away our best leverage over China on day one.” 
A People’s Liberation Army general was as gleeful as the diplomat was deflated.
In a video of an internal talk that leaked online, Jin Yi’nan called the TPP decision a “grand gift, although [Trump] does not know it”.
In the months that followed Mr Trump’s TPP decision, Chinese officials breathed easier and easier as one threat after another melted away.  
Trump did not discard the long-standing “One China” as suggested by his unprecedented December phone call with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen. 
He did not declare, as promised on the campaign trail, China a “currency manipulator”. 
And the deadline for a “100-day” trade and investment negotiation begun in Florida passed last month without a meaningful agreement. 
While Trump’s administration has just launched a probe into alleged Chinese theft of intellectual property, it will probably drag on for at least one year.
As a result Beijing has achieved its first objective vis-à-vis Trump: to avoid any economic disruptions with its most important trading partner ahead of a Communist party congress this autumn that will mark the start of Xi’s second term in office. 
Trump has, in other words, thus thrown out his second best piece of leverage over Beijing.  
China must still navigate difficult trade and investment negotiations with a US commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, and a US trade representative who both understand that the Chinese Communist party’s unique brand of “state capitalism” poses challenges that the WTO is not equipped to handle. 
In his confirmation hearing in June, USTR Robert Lighthizer demonstrated that he understood the perils of Chinese state capitalism as well as Hillary Clinton did.
Mrs Clinton sounded her own alarm on the subject in a series of detailed speeches while secretary of state, and would probably have been laser-focused on the issue had she defeated Trump in last year’s presidential election. 
But Beijing’s showdown with Mr Ross and Mr Lighthizer will run for a year at least.
Xi can live with that, especially when pitted against an American president whose competence and authority waste further away with each passing week.

Perfidious Albion

Cambridge University Press faces backlash after bowing to China censorship pressure
By Simon Denyer

A student walks through the quadrangle of King's College, Cambridge, Nov. 24, 2005. 

BEIJING — Cambridge University Press faces a major backlash from academics after bowing to Chinese government demands to censor an important academic journal.
CUP announced Friday it had removed 300 articles and book reviews from a version of the “China Quarterly” website available in China at the request of the government.
The articles touched on topics deemed sensitive to the Communist Party, including the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989, policies towards Tibetan and Uighur ethnic minorities, Taiwan and the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.
The articles would still be available on a version of China Quarterly accessible outside China.
The demand to remove the articles came from China’s General Administration of Press and Publication, which warned that if they were not removed the entire website would be made unavailable in China.
But academics around the world have accused CUP of selling out and becoming complicit in censoring Chinese academic debate and history.
In an open letter published on, James A. Millward, a professor of history at Georgetown University called the decision “a craven, shameful and destructive concession” to the People’s Republic of China’s growing censorship regime.
Millward said the decision overruled the peer-review process and the views of editors about what should be in the journal and was a “clear violation of academic independence inside and outside China.”
He added it was akin to the New York Times or the Economist publishing versions of their papers inside China omitting content deemed offensive to the Party. 
“And as my colleagues Greg Distelhorst and Jessica Chen Weiss have written, ‘the censored history of China will literally bear the seal of Cambridge University.’”
“It is noteworthy that the topics and peoples CUP has so blithely chosen to censor comprise mainly minorities and the politically disadvantaged. Would you censor content about Black Lives Matter, Mexican immigrants or Muslims in your American publication list if Trump asked you to do to?,” he asked.
In a tweet, James Leibold, an associate professor at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, whose scholarship about the Xinjiang region was among the censored articles, called the decision “a shameful act."
And a petition is now circulating among academics warning that Cambridge University Press could face a boycott if it continues to acquiesce to the Chinese government’s demands.
“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,” Christopher Balding, an associate professor at Peking University HSBC School of Business in Shenzhen, China, the petition’s originator, wrote.
“If Cambridge University Press acquiesces to the demands of the Chinese government, we as academics and universities reserve the right to pursue other actions including boycotts of Cambridge University Press and related journals.”
The petition requests that only academics and people working in higher education sign, and give their affiliation. 
By Monday afternoon in China it had attracted 290 signatures on although it could not be immediately established how many signatories were academics.
In a statement, CUP said it has complied with the initial request “to ensure that other academic and educational materials we publish remain available to researchers and educators in this market.”
It added it had planned meetings “to discuss our position with the relevant agencies” at the Beijing Book Fair this week.
Experts said the decision was part of a broader crackdown on free expression in China under Xi Jinping that has intensified this year as the Communist Party becomes more confident and less inclined to compromise.
In the past, China's system of censorship, nicknamed the Great Firewall of China, has concentrated mainly on Chinese-language material, and has been less preoccupied with blocking English-language material, which is accessed only by a narrow elite. 
But that may now be changing.
“The China Quarterly is very reputable within academic circles, and it does not promote the "positive" energy that China wants to see,” said Qiao Mu, a former professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University who was demoted and ultimately left the university after criticizing the government. 
“Instead, it touches on historical reflection, talks about Cultural Revolution and other errors that China has made in the past. These are things that China does not like and does not want to be discussed.”
Qiao said the decision would have a negative effect on already limited academic freedom in China.
“For Chinese academics, the effect is mainly psychological,” he said. 
“They will think more when doing research and impose stricter self-censorship.”
Internet companies have also faced similar dilemmas: Google chose to withdraw from China rather than submit to censorship, and has been displaced here by a censored Chinese search engine, 
But LinkedIn has submitted to censorship and continues to operate here. 
Apple recently complied with a demand from the Chinese government to remove many VPN (virtual private network) applications that netizens use to access blocked websites, from its App Store in China.
Millward argued that Cambridge as a whole has more power than it perhaps realized in a battle of wills with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“China is not going to ban everything branded ‘Cambridge’ from the Chinese realm, because to do so would turn this into a big, public issue, and that is precisely what the authorities hope to avoid,” he wrote.
“To do so would, moreover, pit the CCP against a household name that every Chinese person who knows anything about education reveres as one of the world’s oldest and best universities. And Chinese, probably more than anyone else, revere universities, especially name-brand ones.
Cambridge University Press has made available a complete list of the censored articles here.

Open Letter to Cambridge University Press about its censorship of the China Quarterly

Open Letter to Cambridge University Press about its Censorship of the journal China Quarterly
By James A. Millward, Professor of History, Georgetown University, Washington D.C.

Cambridge University Press’s decision to censor the journal China Quarterly as it is viewed online in China is a craven, shameful and destructive concession to the PRC’s growing censorship regime
It is also needless.
As recently reported, and admitted after the fact in a corporate statement, CUP has culled some 300 articles and reviews from a flagship journal on Chinese affairs after receiving a demand from some relevant organ in Beijing. (Possibly more alarming, but as yet unclear, is CUP’s admission that it has removed 1000 book titles from its sales website in China at the behest of the PRC party-state.) 
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. 
The articles were published in China Quarterly only after peer-review and expert editing; books in its book-review section were also originally peer-reviewed and selected by knowledgeable editors. 
CUP is thus, in response to pressure from Chinese authorities and without consulting its authors, countermanding the peer-review process and overriding the journal’s own editors about content in the journal. 
This comprises a clear violation of academic independence outside as well as inside China.
Some book authors have recently agreed to allow limited censorship of their own books so that they might be published in Chinese translation. 
Often that censorship happens in the translation process itself, and can involve simple rewording as well as cutting whole sections.[1] 
Even where wholesale chopping of content has happened, however, this differs from what CUP is doing now. 
First of all, those have been the authors’ own decisions. 
Secondly, it is Chinese-language versions, not the original English text, that is affected. 
CUP is censoring the original English-language version of the China Quarterly as it is available in the Chinese market.
Cambridge University Press’s current concession is akin to the New York Times or The Economist letting the Chinese Communist Party determine what articles go into their publications — something they have never done. 
It would be unimaginable for these media to instead collaborate with PRC party censors to excise selected content from their daily or weekly editions. 
Rather, NYT and The Economist are banned in their entirety — but they remain whole. 
There are not incomplete, scissored-up, CCP versions of the New York Times or The Economist online in China. 
In a similar fashion, Google chose to pull out of China rather than let its searches be CCP-screened and selectively blocked. 
Cambridge University Press, on the other hand, is agreeably donning the hospital gown, untied in the back, baring itself to the Chinese scalpel, and crying “cut away!” 
But even this metaphor fails, since CUP is actually assisting, like a surgical nurse, in its own evisceration. 
The result is a misleading, neutered simulacrum of China Quarterly for the China market. 
And as my colleagues Greg Distelhorst and Jessica Chen Weiss have written, “the censored history of China will literally bear the seal of Cambridge University.” 
This is not only disrespectful of CUP’s authors; it demonstrates a repugnant disdain for Chinese readers, for whom CUP apparently deems a watered-down product to be good enough.
What is particularly chilling about Cambridge’s acquiescence in this case is that the list of pieces it cut seems to have been generated with a simple search on keywords and tags for Tian’anmen, Tibet, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Uyghur and the like. 
Does anyone think Chinese censors are actually reading this stuff? 
That blacklist of banned articles and reviews probably took less than an hour to compile with a few simple searches. 
Hey CUP, why don’t you and your CCP partners just create a bot to do the same thing? 
That way future editions of China Quarterly can be auto-expurgated without a human even having to glance at the tables of contents.
But the still greater concern is that if China Quarterly and then other journals published by Cambridge (such as the Journal of Asian Studies) — powerful institutions with global clout, not vulnerable individuals — just go along with this request to censor scholarship on these topics, will scholars inside or outside China still be eager to work on Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, the Uyghurs, Tian’anmen, Taiwan independence advocates, Liu Xiaobo, the Dalai Lama, Chinese dissidents, Falun Gong and so on? 
Or will they chose safer subjects? 
And how should the people who are the subject of these articles feel about Cambridge’s decision to airbrush them from the record? 
CUP may hide behind the excuse that this is a “pragmatic” decision to preserve “Chinese” access to its less sensitive material, but who the hell gives Cambridge University Press the right to decide that Tibetans, Uyghurs, Hong Kong activists and dissidents of all sorts are less worthy than other content? 
It is noteworthy that the topics and peoples CUP has so blithely chosen to censor comprise mainly minorities and the politically disadvantaged. 
Would you censor content about Black Lives Matter, Mexican immigrants or Muslims in your American publication list if Trump asked you to do to? 
So why do you think it’s fine to cut the oppressed and disenfranchised out of China Quarterly?
CUP’s passive self-bowdlerization is unlike individual author’s decisions for another reason. 
There have been several cases in recent years of top-ranked universities doing little or nothing when their own faculty are denied Chinese visas — when these scholars are, in effect, personally “censored.” 
When universities throw their own faculty under the bus or restrict campus activities related to topics the PRC deems too “sensitive,” university administrations claim to do so in order to preserve their overall access to or initiatives in China. 
But when upstanding universities have actually called China’s bluff, China has reversed itself, as it did after it attempted to sanction University of Calgary for a Dalai Lama honorary degree or when it offered to endow a Chair in China studies at Stanford — with the stipulation that the professor filling it would never to mention Tibet. (Original article here.)
CUP may be worried about its English-language pedagogical materials and other enterprises being banned in China, but it should not be. 
Even outside of Chinese universities, vast numbers of non-academics know and respect the name “Jianqiao.” 
China is not going to ban everything branded “Cambridge” from the Chinese realm, because to do so would turn this into a big, public issue, and that is precisely what the authorities hope to avoid. 
To do so would, moreover, pit the CCP against a household name that every Chinese person who knows anything about education reveres as one of the world’s oldest and best universities. 
And Chinese, probably more than anyone else, revere universities, especially name-brand ones. Cambridge University, like Stanford — or Calgary, for that matter! — can safely afford to say, “Sorry, China Quarterly is a package deal. Take it or leave it.” 
And if China chooses to leave it, we can trust resourceful Chinese colleagues and students to find workarounds to get and distribute the material, as they do for lots of English-language publications already (though that will be harder if good VPN’s disappear. #Thanks, Apple).
In recent years China has invested billions of yuan in a so far very successful effort to make its universities world-class. 
Professors with foreign Ph.D.’s are welcome in Chinese universities. 
Chinese scholars are encouraged and funded to go to conferences and spend semesters abroad as visiting scholars at foreign universities. 
Chinese libraries acquire foreign books and databases, which are especially useful in the many English-language global programs Chinese universities now run for domestic and international students. 
The field of China studies, once bifurcated between scholarship in China and that in the West, is increasingly integrated: we talk to each other in Chinese and in English at conferences, in publications and on platforms like Douban and WeChat (Weixin).
For some years, the PRC party-state censored publication in Chinese, but let English-language materials through, perhaps as a sop to intellectuals and the educated, globalizing middle class whom it successfully coopted. 
Now, by blocking VPNs, the PRC is more severely limiting the access of this trusted elite to the world at large. 
The party-state has intensified controls on publication and scholarship in China, and restricts Chinese access to scholarly tools from the world at large (Youtube, Wikipedia, Medium,, Google Scholar and other services are blocked in most of China). 
But in doing this, the PRC is reneging on its deal with these globalized, highly-educated elites, and pursuing policies directly contradicting those building up its universities. 
How long can this contradiction stand?
I have been periodically prevented from going to China for some 15 years now because I have written about Xinjiang. (A number of other scholars of Xinjiang, Tibet, and Chinese politics have likewise seen their visa access restricted.) 
This hurts China as much as it hurts me, since not only am I cut off from China, but the field of Xinjiang studies now carefully avoids interactions with Han scholars from the PRC. 
With reason, we hesitate to invite them to international conferences and seldom attend conferences in China or share our ideas with them. 
Chinese scholars and diplomats are quite aware of this problem. 
A number of Chinese academics, including highly-connected scholar-officials from Beijing think-tanks who directly advise the government, seek me out in Washington D.C. to ask about the newest English-language scholarship on Xinjiang — because they simply can’t get it, or learn about it, in China! 
Cambridge University Press should not abet this creeping constriction of Chinese access to the intellectual world at large by letting the party-state have its cake and eat it too. 
If the PRC authorities want to cut off their access to what the world’s scholars are saying — precisely about those thorniest problems where you’d think PRC would be most interested in fresh ideas — so be it. 
If they want to try to keep their own scholars ignorant of international scholarship, so be it. 
It’s a safe bet that most Chinese academic and political leaders are perhaps not so stupid, and will not continue along this academic cul-de-sac unless CUP and other publishers enable them.
Just say “no” to China’s self-defeating censorship demands, CUP, and I’ll happily continue to review books and manuscripts for you, essentially for free, as I do now. 
That’s the bargain you have with us, your readers and contributors from the scholarly world outside of China. 
You maintain your press’s academic integrity, and we work to produce and review your content with only symbolic remuneration (a few hundred dollars for a book that takes 10 years to write, or $150 for 2–3 days’ work reviewing a book manuscript). 
We are not in this business for the money. 
If you, an established, world-renowned educational institution sacrifice your academic integrity on venal or faux-pragmatic grounds, you cannot rely on our continued respect and cooperation.

The author received his MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, where the journal China Quarterly is housed. 
He received his Ph.D. at Stanford and published his first book with Stanford University Press. 
He has published a chapter and book reviews in venues published by Cambridge University Press, and is a freqent peer-reviewer of manuscripts submitted to CUP publications. 
The review of Millward’s book, Eurasian Crossroads, by Nicolas Becquelin, is among the pieces cut from China Quarterly in China by Cambridge University Press.

[1] I have myself acquiesced to a bit of censorship in the “Acknowledgements” section of one book of mine recently published in China. 
For another volume, one directly concerning Xinjiang history, I instead published the Chinese translation in Hong Kong, where there remains more academic freedom than in the PRC proper. Mainland scholars can access and read the Hong Kong addition, but it is not sold in the PRC.

Academic Prostitution

Cambridge University Press faces boycott over China censorship
By Tom Phillips in Beijing

Cambridge University Press was urged to refuse censorship requests for not only its China Quarterly journal but also any other topics or publications. 

Cambridge University Press must reject China’s “disturbing” censorship demands or face a potential boycott of its publications, academics have warned.
In a petition published on Monday, academics from around the world denounced China’s attempts to “export its censorship on topics that do not fit its preferred narrative”.
The appeal came after it emerged that Cambridge University Press (CUP), the world’s oldest publishing house, had complied with a Chinese instruction to block online access to more than 300 politically sensitive articles from its highly respected China Quarterly journal. 
The blacklisted articles covered topics including Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, the Tiananmen massacre and the cult of personality some claim is emerging around Xi Jinping.
The petition attacked CUP’s move and urged it “to refuse the censorship request not just for the China Quarterly but on any other topics, journals or publication that have been requested by the Chinese government”.
“If Cambridge University Press acquiesces to the demands of the Chinese government, we as academics and universities reserve the right to pursue other actions including boycotts of Cambridge University Press and related journals,” it added.
The author of the petition, Peking University economics professor Christopher Balding, said he hoped it would serve as an alert to how China had dramatically stepped up its efforts to stifle free thinking since Xi became its top leader in 2012and began a severe crackdown on academia and civil society. 
“I think this is an increasing problem that really needs to be addressed much more forcefully by the international academic community,” he said.
Balding complained that while it was fashionable for academics and publishers to attack US president Donald Trump, they were far more cautious about criticising Xi’s authoritarian regime for fear of reprisals. 
“Standing up to the Chinese government involves definite costs. It is not an easy thing to do. There will be potentially punitive measures taken against you. But if it is a principle that is right in the UK and if it is right in the US, then it should also be right in China. And there will be times when you have to accept costs associated with principles.”
Another signatory, Griffith University anthropologist David Schak, said he believed Cambridge University Press had sullied its centuries-old reputation by bowing to China’s demands
“Cambridge seems to be the one who is now censoring rather than China, even though they are doing it at the request of China ... They have soiled their copy book.”
Schak added: “It makes you wonder what they are in the business of doing ... I thought university presses were there to publish good research.”
“They are acceding to China whereas [they should have said]: ‘What you do, we can’t stop you from doing that but we are not going to do that ourselves.’ You put the onus entirely back on the Chinese government rather than cooperating with them.”
Suzanne Pepper, a Hong Kong-based writer whose piece on politics in the former colony was among the blocked China Quarterly articles, said she expected censorship from China’s rulers but not from CUP. 
It makes them complicit, accomplices in the fine art of censorship, which we are all supposed to deplore,” she said.
Chinese intellectuals also lamented the attempt to limit their access to foreign research. 
“This whole case makes me feel extremely disappointed,” Li Jingrui, a Chinese novelist, wrote on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter. 
In an oblique reference to China’s one-party state, she added: “I’m left with the feeling that there is absolutely no escape since every single breath on Earth belongs to the king.”

dimanche 20 août 2017

Rogue Nation

Hong Kong’s rapid descent into repression

Pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong, right, and Nathan Law, left, speak outside the high court in Hong Kong on Thursday. They were sentenced to six to eight months in prison. 

IN 2014, as Hong Kong erupted into protests calling for free elections, Joshua Wong emerged as the face of the city’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement
Just 17 years old at the time, he led demonstrators as they marched on a fenced government square and organized weeks of sit-ins thereafter. 
In the years since, he has continued to champion democratic reform, establishing a student-led political party that won a seat on the legislative council. 
Apparently, this was more than Beijing and the pro-China local government could bear: On Thursday, Mr. Wong and two other activists, Alex Chow and Nathan Law, were sentenced to six to eight months in prison for their role in the peaceful protests.
Thursday’s ruling overturns lighter penalties handed down last year. 
Mr. Wong and Mr. Law were initially sentenced to community service, and Mr. Chow was given a suspended sentence. 
That the Hong Kong government pressed forward with prosecution was troubling enough, but its decision to appeal the original penalties and push for jail time is particularly vindictive. 
It is also politically self-serving: Hong Kong law prohibits people sentenced to more than three months in prison from running for office for five years
By cracking down on three rising political stars, the pro-Beijing establishment has managed to cripple its opposition and discourage further criticism.
The sentences send a chilling message that speech and assembly are only permitted in the city if they support the status quo. 
This strikes at many Hong Kong residents’ deepest fear: that the local government has become an extension of Beijing. 
When Hong Kong was officially transferred from British to Chinese rule in 1997, it was on the condition that China would allow the city a measure of autonomy and democracy. 
Hong Kong has long prided itself on its independent judiciary and system of self-rule. 
It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that the local leadership is willing to jettison these principles.
Over the past three years, Beijing and its loyalists in Hong Kong have restricted the field of candidates allowed to run for chief executive; reached across borders to detain five Hong Kong booksellers who stocked politically sensitive books; cracked down on street protesters calling for democracy; and stacked the deck to elect a pro-China leader, Carrie Lam, who trailed in public opinion polls
Most recently, Chinese lawmakers reinterpreted Hong Kong’s charter to disqualify four pro-democracy legislators for peacefully protestingduring their swearing-in ceremony. 
Thursday’s decision should not be seen in isolation but as part of Hong Kong’s rapid descent into political repression.
What is especially sad about this crackdown is that it is so self-defeating: Both China and Hong Kong would benefit from a city that upholds the rule of law and promises a stable environment for investment. 
The more Hong Kong embraces authoritarianism, the less vibrant and prosperous it will be.