A top UK academic publisher that bowed to pressure from Beijing to block online access to hundreds of scholarly articles in China has reversed its decision following an outcry from academics.
Cambridge University Press (CUP) said late last week it had removed some 300 papers and book reviews published in the China Quarterly journal from its website in China at “an instruction” of the Chinese government.
CUP said it complied with the request in a bid to keep its other academic and educational materials available in the country.
The blocked articles covered topics including the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests, the 1960s Cultural Revolution and Tibet.
International scholars decried the decision as an affront to academic freedom, while hundreds of academics threatened to boycott the publisher if it acquiesced to China’s demands.
In a statement on Monday, CUP said it had decided to reinstate the blocked content before a meeting with its Chinese importer next week. The blocked articles were available on CUP’s website and could be downloaded for free late on Monday.
Cambridge University Press follow-up statement regarding content in The China Quarterly pic.twitter.com/VXob2KBqqV
— Cambridge University Press (@CambridgeUP) August 22, 2017
Tim Pringle, the editor of the China Quarterly, said in a statement on Twitter that he expressed his support for CUP’s decision.
“Access to published materials of the highest quality is a core component of scholarly research. It is not the role of respected global publishing houses such as CUP to hinder such access,” he said.
Separately, the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) said it had been told by CUP it had received a similar request to remove access in China to about 100 articles from the Journal of Asian Studies.
CUP publishes the Journal of Asian Studies for the US-based group.
AAS said it was “extremely concerned about this violation of academic freedom”, and said it opposed censorship in any form.
The furore comes against a tightening of controls by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government over a wide range of groups that could feed opposition to the ruling Communist Party, including lawyers, non-governmental organisations and churches.
Academics say that universities, which have long endured some degree of political interference, have also come under increased supervision, including regular monitoring in classrooms and ideological audits.
The state-run Global Times tabloid, in an editorial on Monday, said publishers could leave the country if they did not like the “Chinese way”.