lundi 21 août 2017

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.

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