By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, Aug. 22: Following backlash over the move by Cambridge University Press to take down over 300 articles and reviews last week, the world’s oldest press house has taken a u-turn and reversed its decision. The content deemed sensitive to the Chinese government was earlier taken down at the behest of the Chinese government.
CUP on Friday announced that it has removed 300 articles and reviews from the “China Quarterly’ website in China. Removed contents include Chinese government sensitive issues ranging from the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, Tibetan and Uighur ethnic minorities related policy, Taiwan and Mao’s Cultural Revolution. China’s General Administration of Press and Publication gave “instructions” to CUP warning that if the said content were not removed, the whole website would be banned in China.
Tim Pringle, editor of The China Quarterly
, lauding the decision told BBC
, "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."
Associate Professor at Peking University HSBC School of Business in Shenzhen, China Christopher Balding who started a signature campaign online in the wake of the move earlier wrote, “As academics and China focused academics, we are disturbed by the request by the Chinese government for Cambridge University Press to censor articles from the China Quarterly. It is disturbing to academics and universities world wide that China is attempting to export its censorship on topics that do not fit its preferred narrative.” The petition gathered 1,061 signees.
Post the restoration of the banned content, he told The Washington Post
, “These are issues Western institutions need to rethink. Just assuming there will be continued liberalization is not an accurate assessment.”
CUP which was subject to censure and criticism from academics and others in a statement on Monday said, “Academic freedom is the overriding principle on which the University of Cambridge is based. Therefore, while this temporary decision was taken in order to protect short-term access in China to the vast majority of the Press’s journal articles, the University’s academic leadership and the Press have agreed to reinstate the blocked content, with immediate effect, so as to uphold the principle of academic freedom on which the University’s work is founded.”