Second CUP journal challenged by China

Second CUP journal challenged by China

Cambridge University Press (CUP) has fended off another request from Chinese authorities to censor content in one of its journals. 

China’s General Administration of Press and Publications requested that access to around 100 articles from The Journal of Asian Studies be blocked in the country. Editors from the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), which helps to run the journal has issued a statement saying it was “extremely concerned” by the request, which it called a “violation of academic freedom" and that it was in "ongoing discussions with CUP about how to respond to the Chinese authorities". 

"We oppose censorship in any form and continue to promote a free exchange of academic research among scholars around the world," it said.

CUP has since confirmed to The Bookseller it is refusing the request to block articles from the journal and no articles were ever removed from the website in China.

"The request was made but refused, and no Journal of Asian Studies articles have been removed from CUP's website search results in China," said a CUP spokesperson.

The news follows confirmation from legal publisher LexisNexis that it pulled two products from the Chinese market in March after a similar request to censor content was made.

The Bookseller understands LexisNexis was asked to remove content particularly relating to international news coverage of China from its database, but rather than compromise the integrity of the products, it decided itself to stop selling them into China.

A spokesperson for LexisNexis said: “Earlier this year LexisNexis Business Insight Solutions in China was asked to remove some content from its database. In March 2017, the company withdrew two products (Nexis and LexisNexis Academic) from the Chinese market.”

The issue of censorship in China hit the headlines over the weekend after it emerged CUP agreed to requests from the Chinese authorities to remove 315 articles from its China Quarterly journal on topics such as the Tiananmen Square massacre and the Cultural Revolution. After coming under heavy criticism from academics around the world for the move, including 600 who signed a petition threatening to boycott the press, CUP reversed its decision on Monday and made all the articles available for publication. In a statement, the publisher said it had "reluctantly" blocked access to the articles in The China Quarterly as a "temporary" measure which it has since reviewed, "so as to uphold the principle of academic freedom on which the university’s work is founded".

During recent months China's import agencies have begun to take a tougher line on material in journals, saying they are being put under pressure by their state bosses to do so, The Bookseller’s deputy editor Benedicte Page has reported from Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF), which opened on Wednesday (23rd August). “The message has apparently been that if offending material from a particular publisher is not withdrawn, all access by that publisher to the China market will cease - a message that does not now bode well for Cambridge University Press,” she writes.

 The IPA has made a plea to China not to penalise CUP for its decision to allow access to the articles.

The controversy coincides with the start of Beijing International Book Fair on Wednesday (23rd August) - an event where books were reported confiscated last year from exhibitors stands for containing politically or culturally sensitive content. State-owned books importer CNPIEC responded at the time there had been a "misunderstanding".

In February 2016, a new media policy for party and state news was made in China under president Xi Jinping dictating content must come under the Communist Party’s "guidance". French organisation Reporters Without Borders, which also accused China of murder over its "lack of care" for writer and Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo’s, who died last month, has ranked China 176 out of 180 countries in its 2016 worldwide index of press freedom.