Cambridge University Press (CUP) has censored content in one of its journals – after Chinese authorities told it to.
More than 300 articles and book reviews on subjects such as Tiananmen and the Cultural Revolution were removed from CUP’s China Quarterly publication.
The censorship request came from the Chinese government’s General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP).
The journal’s editor, Tim Pringle, drew attention to the “very concerning developments” in an email to editorial board members made public on social media today (August 18).
He wrote that content referencing Tiananmen, the Cultural Revolution, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan was targeted by censors.
Mr Pringle said he had been informed CUP had blocked the material “to avoid having their entire site shut down”.
CUP confirmed it agreed to the censorship “to ensure that other academic and educational materials we publish remain available to researchers and educators in this market”.
It said other publishers had seen all their content blocked in China until they allowed authorities to limit access to certain articles.
The statement continued: “We do not, and will not, proactively censor our content and will only consider blocking individual items when requested to do so when the wider availability of content is at risk.”
China Quarterly labels itself as “the leading scholarly journal in its field, covering all aspects of contemporary China including Taiwan.”
A UK-based search of its website for ‘Tiananmen’ yields 49 results and a search for ‘Taiwan’ produces over 300 results.
According to Tim Pringle some of the content that censors requested to be removed dated back to the 1960s.
He said a similar request to take down over a thousand e-books published by CUP was made a few months ago.
Mr Pringle added that other China studies journal editors he contacted were not aware of similar demands being made of their publishers.
But the CUP’s statement said: “We are troubled by the recent increase in requests of this nature, and have already planned meetings to discuss our position with the relevant agencies at the Beijing Book Fair next week.
“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.
“China signed up to the International Publishers Association last year, and one of the body’s guiding principles is that of freedom to publish. The issue of censorship in China and other regions is not a short-term issue and therefore requires a longer-term approach. There are many things we can’t control but we will continue to take every opportunity to influence this agenda.”