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Cambridge University publisher relents on censoring ‘sensitive’ China content, following outcry

Cambridge University Press is to repost 315 articles it removed from its Chinese website following a backlash over censorship.

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Photo: HKFP remix/Pixabay.

The publisher had taken down sensitive articles and reviews from China Quarterly last week. But the academic journal’s editor Tim Pringle said on Tuesday night that the publisher had reversed course following a meeting.

“It comes after a justifiably intense reaction from the global academic community and beyond,” he wrote in a statement.

“The China Quarterly will continue to publish articles that make it through our rigorous double-blind peer review process, regardless of topic or sensitivity,” he added.

Last week, the publisher was given a list of articles and book reviews to remove from its Chinese website by the mainland’s General Administration of Press and Publication. The move came a few months after a similar request was made for the publisher to remove 1,000 of its e-books from the site, but Pringle said that journals had not previously been targeted.

A spokesperson for the University of Cambridge told the Guardian that the decision to block the articles was temporary ahead of a discussion with academic leaders.

cambridge university press

Pitt Building, Cambridge University Press. Photo: Chris Huang/Flickr.

“Academic freedom is the overriding principle on which the University of Cambridge is based,” the spokesperson said.

Chorus of condemnation 

Academics around the world were quick to air their criticism last week as a petition gathered pace, threatening a boycott.

An open letter from James A. Milward, a history professor at Georgetown University in the US, called the move “a craven, shameful and destructive concession” to Beijing.

The interdisciplinary journal covers all aspects of contemporary China, including Taiwan. Pringle stated that most of the items in question related to sensitive topics such as the Tiananmen Massacre, the Cultural Revolution, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

Cambridge University publisher relents on censoring 'sensitive' China content, following outcry