After global outrage, the Cambridge University Press (CUP) has reversed its decision to bow to the Chinese censorship pressure. On August 18, the news came that following a Chinese diktat, the prestigious publisher had blocked 315 articles in China that the China’s ruling elite considered inimical to their interests. The articles were published over many years in its academic journal The China Quarterly and covered issues like China’s Cultural Revolution, Tiananmen protests and so on.
According to the CUP release, the decision to block the content was a temporary one and was reluctantly taken and after the University level review, the CUP as well as the University of Cambridge decided to reinstate the blocked article with immediate effect.
“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”, the Washington Post wrote quoting the CUP release.
The said articles in question were on issues which the ruling Chinese Communist Party treat as taboo and does all in its capacity to obliterate them from public access – Tiananmen, Cultural Revolution, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, a email from Tim Pringle, The China Quarterly’s editor read.
The Chinese ruling elite had threatened to block CUP website in China if it didn’t comply with its demands. According to Tim Pringle, it was not the first Chinese demand. Before this, the Chinese had come with a similar diktat to block content of over a thousand e-books, a report in Quartz said.
After the news came to light, the CUP did try to clear its position by issuing a statement where it said that “it will not change the nature of its publishing to make content acceptable in China and was troubled by the recent increase in requests of this nature.”
“We complied with the initial request to remove individual articles to ensure that other academic and educational materials we publish remain available to researchers and educators in this market”, the statement further said in a clear indication that the CUP had started feeling heat of its decision to bowing to the Chinese pressure and was seriously considering alternatives.
The step by the CUP to block articles on Chinese demand had drawn global condemnation and. It was derided as a shameful decision. A petition on Change.org signed by academics and intellectuals on Monday demanded a resolute stand before the Chinese pressure or else the CUP may face a global boycott of its publications by academics, The Guardian reported. Even some in the Chinese intelligentsia also criticised the decision, “I’m left with the feeling that there is absolutely no escape since every single breath on Earth belongs to the king”, The Guardian wrote quoting Chinese novelist Li Jingrui.