Facing Censorship: A Statement of Guiding Principles

“As scholarly publishers we believe in the free exchange of ideas. As university presses, we are especially vigilant defenders of academic freedom because it is fundamental to the work we do. In this, we stand with our universities, our authors, the greater scholarly community, and with each other against all restrictions imposed on the dissemination of our work….

Because of the increasingly digital nature of scholarly communications, requests to restrict access to specific elements of a larger digital collection within a given market seem likely to become a more common form of attempts at government censorship. AUPresses encourages university presses generally to withhold their consent to any such request, whether made directly or via a third-party aggregator, even if doing so results in the unavailability of the entire digital collection within that market….”

 

Academics Protest China’s Censorship Requests | The Scientist Magazine®

“Scholars have formed a peer-review boycott to encourage journals to take a firm stance against requests to cull sensitive articles….More than 1,000 people from around the world have signed a petition calling on major journal publishers not to censor their offerings within China in response to governmental pressure. The petition pledges a peer-review boycott, stating, “we will not agree to provide peer review service until editors confirm that their publications do not censor content in the [People’s Republic of China], and we call on all others to do so as well.” …”

Second academic journal, publisher say pressed to censor China content, East Asia News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

“A second academic journal has received requests to censor content in China, following an international outcry after Cambridge University Press (CUP) temporarily agreed to block sensitive articles from another publication under pressure from Beijing.

The United States-based Association for Asian Studies (AAS) said Tuesday (Aug 22) that CUP, its online publisher, had received a request to remove 100 articles from the Journal of Asian Studies.

It was the second time in days that a journal published by CUP revealed that it had received such a demand from China….

Separately on Tuesday, LexisNexis, a provider of legal, regulatory and business information, said it had withdrawn two products from the Chinese market in March this year after it was asked to remove some content.  “Earlier this year LexisNexis Business Insight Solutions in China was asked to remove some content from its database,”LexisNexis said in a statement. 

“In March 2017, the company withdrew two products (Nexis and LexisNexis Academic) from the Chinese market.” LexisNexis is owned by information group Relx. …”

Second academic journal, publisher say pressed to censor China content, East Asia News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

“A second academic journal has received requests to censor content in China, following an international outcry after Cambridge University Press (CUP) temporarily agreed to block sensitive articles from another publication under pressure from Beijing.

The United States-based Association for Asian Studies (AAS) said Tuesday (Aug 22) that CUP, its online publisher, had received a request to remove 100 articles from the Journal of Asian Studies.

It was the second time in days that a journal published by CUP revealed that it had received such a demand from China….

Separately on Tuesday, LexisNexis, a provider of legal, regulatory and business information, said it had withdrawn two products from the Chinese market in March this year after it was asked to remove some content.  “Earlier this year LexisNexis Business Insight Solutions in China was asked to remove some content from its database,”LexisNexis said in a statement. 

“In March 2017, the company withdrew two products (Nexis and LexisNexis Academic) from the Chinese market.” LexisNexis is owned by information group Relx. …”

Petition · Peer Review Boycott of Academic Publications that Censor Content in China · Change.org

“While we acknowledge that it can be difficult to discern which publications or their holding companies are censoring in China, we call for a peer review boycott of any non-PRC-based academic publication known to be censoring its content in the People’s Republic of China. From now on, we will not agree to provide peer review service until editors confirm that their publications do not censor content in the PRC, and we call on all others to do so as well….”

Dude, where’s my paper? – China Policy Institute: Analysis

“I never imagined that the paper I wrote would end up on a list of articles pulled from publication in China by Springer Nature. When another of my articles, “Chen Suibian: On independence” featured on the list of China Quarterly publications that the Chinese authorities required Cambridge University Press to remove from their website in China, I could at least perceive the logic to it….Except, as exemplified by Cambridge University Press’ u-turn, where reputational damage prompts (let’s give benefit of the doubt) a reconsideration of principles. It remains to be seen how Springer Nature will respond, although trade presses have somewhat different considerations than university presses….”

Dude, where’s my paper? – China Policy Institute: Analysis

“I never imagined that the paper I wrote would end up on a list of articles pulled from publication in China by Springer Nature. When another of my articles, “Chen Suibian: On independence” featured on the list of China Quarterly publications that the Chinese authorities required Cambridge University Press to remove from their website in China, I could at least perceive the logic to it….Except, as exemplified by Cambridge University Press’ u-turn, where reputational damage prompts (let’s give benefit of the doubt) a reconsideration of principles. It remains to be seen how Springer Nature will respond, although trade presses have somewhat different considerations than university presses….”

The Chinese Communist Party has growing sway in Western universities

“In August, Cambridge University Press (CUP) acceded to a request by China’s import agency to censor a list of articles from its journal China Quarterly. CUP initially complied until an open letter by the editor of the journal caught the attention of academics and journalists, who then led an outcry on social media. CUP eventually agreed to not pre-emptively censor its articles, but many were startled by how quickly and easily such a prestigious press agreed to censor on behalf of an authoritarian government.

 

The rationale, of course, is that CUP and other presses like it wish to protect access to the Chinese market. They argue that if they censor a small portion of their offerings, then the vast majority can be accessed in China, thereby salvaging links between foreign and Chinese academics. This is the 1% argument: only 1% is censored but 99% can be accessed, so really this is not such a big problem.

 

This is disingenuous, for two reasons. First, it ignores that censorship is even more insidious and powerful when people do not know they are subject to it. By selectively pruning offerings for the Chinese market, presses lead readers to believe that the post-censorship catalogue represents the full picture of foreign perspectives on China.  Editing out so-called “sensitive” topics like the Tiananmen Square repression of 1989, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and studies of Tibet, Xinjiang, and Taiwan gives the false impression that the CCP view on these issues is the only legitimate one and that foreign academia agrees….”

Carrico on Springer, Cambridge | MCLC Resource Center

“Yet something is different this time around [Springer Nature acceding to Chinese censorship versus Cambrudge University Press first acceding to Chinese censorship and quickly reversing its decision]. By this point in the Cambridge controversy, six days after the news broke, the press had already reversed its initial cowardly decision. There is no sign that Springer Nature is about to experience any such change of heart. In its most recent statement, Springer again emphasized that it is simply abiding by “China’s regulatory requirements”. And on Saturday, Chinese state media announced a new “strategic partnership” between Springer and Chinese IT censorship and monitoring giant Tencent, purportedly to encourage scientific innovation. Springer is also publishing the English translation of the latest tome in Xi Jinping’s rapidly proliferating corpus, Xi Jinping Tells a Story. If this is not a case of doubling down, I don’t know what is.

Why, then, have these two parallel cases of censorship unfolded so differently within the narrow span of just three months? One factor could be the respective publishers’ stakes in the China market….

If none of the factors above can explain the different courses of the two censorship scandals, another more distressing explanation, and a possibility that I have come to consider increasingly likely in recent days, is that these types of attacks on academic freedom for access to the China market could gradually become the new normal for all of us: shocking the first time, but gradually something to which we will all grow accustomed.

Springer has been the most determined proponent of such normalization of censorship, claiming that this is simply a matter of obeying the law….

In the face of such obstinate and self-serving cowardice, we as academics and readers need to recapture our shock….

Springer’s “legal” actions are of benefit to no one besides itself and the increasingly retrogressive Xi regime and are a disservice to its forward-looking content providers and consumers- writers, reviewers, and readers. Authors and reviewers who have volunteered their time to a for-profit company are having their trust violated by overeager censors. Meanwhile, readers in China are being turned into second-class readers in a secret agreement between the Xi regime and Springer, which leaves them paying full price but denied full access in a condescendingly separate and unequal arrangement that will directly impede Springer’s stated goal of “discovery.” And the insults don’t stop there- the wholesale deletion of “Tibet” and “Taiwan,” indiscriminately erasing entire peoples from the academic record, should be met with revulsion in a global academic community increasingly vigilant against such racism….

Until Springer takes these steps to correct these outrages, all academics who care about academic freedom and the rights and dignity of the Chinese people should refuse to work or write for Springer Nature or any of its subsidiaries (BioMed Central, Palgrave Macmillan, Nature, Scientific American, Adis Internation, Apress, Macmillan Education) in any form. Only then will Springer be reminded of whom they really rely upon for their success….”

How can scholars tackle the rise of Chinese censorship in the West? | THE Features

“In August, however, the issue of academic freedom was brought inescapably back to home ground when it emerged that Cambridge University Press (CUP) had bowed to Chinese pressure and censored more than 300 online-access articles in its prestigious journal The China Quarterly (see Pringle, page 38).

Although the publisher reversed the move within days, after widespread criticism and threats of boycott, the story has not ended there. In November, the Financial Times revealed that Springer Nature, one of the world’s largest academic publishers, had, at the behest of Beijing, blocked access on its Chinese website to more than 1,000 academic articles containing key terms such as “Tibet”, “Taiwan” or “Hong Kong”, which China deems politically sensitive. The publishing giant defended its action, denying charges of censorship and claiming that it was merely complying with China’s “regulatory requirements” (see box, below left).

Other signs of publishers bowing to pressure from Beijing that have since emerged bring the issue of censorship even more firmly into the Western academic sphere. Allen & Unwin, it emerged in mid-November, has suspended publication of a book intended for the Western market, Silent invasion: How China is turning Australia into a puppet state, by Clive Hamilton….”