Tom Phillips - Cambridge University Press accused of 'selling its soul' over Chinese censorship

NB: Communist censorship, doctoring and certification of history - indeed of all human knowledge - is as old as their conquest of power. Maybe a little less, because till the early and mid 1920's censorship in the USSR was not as comprehensive as in the 1930's. The Chinese Communist Party's control of news and information, not to mention history and political thought goes back a long time. During the Bangladesh crisis of 1970-72 the Chinese public was not even aware of the massacres in East Pakistan by the Pakistan Army. The Party decides public access to information and thought; the areas open to research and the ones that are taboo. This is the People's Republic of Amnesia.

The CPC is the master not only of the State, but of the very souls and minds of the Chinese people. And it is the singular pole of legitimate authority - there are no institutions to safeguard basic rights; no court of appeal that can challenge the absolute power of the Party. This is the essence of totalitarianism and all leftists and communists who defend this behaviour should know that by doing so, they undermine their own claims to being democrats. As the late dissident Liu Xiaobo learned to his cost, even to ask the Party to implement the Chinese Constitution might land you in jail. 

The RSS-run Indian government dreams of establishing a similar tyranny over the Indian public. (For example, even before the 2014 elections, they obtained the removal of A. K. Ramanujan's Three Hundred Ramayanas from the DU syllabus). Such a political system is called an ideocracy: the rule of an ideology, where a select group of persons wielding absolute power decide what people should know and how they may think. This comment on Vasily Grossman's novel about Stalinism, Life and Fate sums it up: He… came to understand that guilt and innocence are meaningless when the state decides the nature of reality.. DS

Cambridge University Press backs down over China censorship
Will reinstate articles to which it blocked online access in China in the face of international protests

The world’s oldest publishing house, Cambridge University Press, has been accused of being an accomplice to the Communist party’s bid to whitewash Chinese history after it agreed to purge hundreds of politically-sensitive articles from its Chinese website at the behest of Beijing’s censors.
The publisher confirmed on Friday that it had complied with a Chinese request to block more than 300 articles from the China Quarterly, a leading China studies journal, in order “to ensure that other academic and educational materials we publish remain available to researchers and educators” in China.

A list of the blocked articles, published by CUP, shows they focus overwhelmingly on topics China’s one-party state regards as taboo, including the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, Mao Zedong’s catastrophic Cultural Revolution, Hong Kong’s fight for democracy and ethnic tensions in Xinjiang and Tibet. They include articles by some of the world’s top China specialists including Columbia University’s Andrew Nathan, George Washington University’s David Shambaugh, and Harvard University scholars Roderick MacFarquhar and Ezra Vogel.

A piece by Dutch historian Frank Dikötter and a book review by the Guardian’s former China correspondent, John Gittings, about the Cultural Revolution were also censored. In its statement, CUP insisted it was committed to freedom of thought and expression and had been “troubled by the recent increase in requests of this nature” from China. The publisher vowed to raise the issue with the “revelant agencies” in Beijing at an upcoming book fair.  But on Saturday, as reports of the publisher’s move spread, it faced a growing outcry from academics and activists who called for the decision to be reversed. “Pragmatic is one word, pathetic more apt,” tweeted Rory Medcalf, the head of the national security college at the Australian National University. John Garnaut, a longtime China correspondent and former adviser to the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, described it as “an extraordinary capitulation” to China.Renee Xia, the international director of the Chinese Human Rights Defenders network, accused the publisher of having “sold its soul for millions of Chinese govt dollars”.

Andrew Nathan, whose name appears three times in the list of censored articles, told the Guardian: “If the Press acceded to a Chinese request to block access to selected articles, as I gather is the case, it violated the trust that authors placed in it and has compromised its integrity as an academic publisher.” Nathan, the editor of a seminal work on the Tiananmen crackdown, added: “I imagine [CUP] might argue that it was serving a higher purpose, by compromising in order to maintain the access by Chinese scholars to most of the material it has published. This is similar to the argument by authors who allow Chinese translations of their work to be censored so that the work can reach the Chinese audience. [But] that’s an argument I have never agreed with.”  “Of course, there may also be a financial motive, similar to Bloomberg, Facebook, and others who have censored their product to maintain access to the Chinese market. This is a dilemma, but if the West doesn’t stand up for its values, then the Chinese authorities will impose their values on us. It’s not worth it.” 

In an open letter two US scholars, Greg Distelhorst and Jessica Chen Weiss, complained that CUP’s move meant Chinese academics and scholars would now only have access to a “sanitized” version of their country’s history. “To me the problem is pretty straightforward: the problem is publishing a politically-curated version of Chinese history and doing so in the name of Cambridge University,” Distelhorst, an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the Guardian. 
 “This makes the publisher an active participant in rewriting history … When a government asks you to censor a piece of scholarship, that request is fundamentally opposed to a principle of academic freedom that I believe to be important to Cambridge and to many universities.”

In a statement the editor of China Quarterly, Tim Pringle, voiced “deep concern and disappointment” at the tightening controls in China. “This restriction of academic freedom is not an isolated move but an extension of policies that have narrowed the space for public engagement and discussion across Chinese society.”.. read more:

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