According to South China Morning Post, international publishers admitted to self-censorship in order to keep sensitive texts away from the Chinese market.
On Wednesday, August 23, more than 2,500 exhibitors from 90+ countries gathered together at the New Venue of the China International Exhibition Center for the 24th Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF).
Via South China Morning Post
In order to ensure growth in the Chinese book market, numerous overseas publishers have surrendered to censorship regulations. Terry Phillips, business development director of British-based Innova Press, displayed a candid attitude when he informed the South China Morning Post on their self-censorship efforts.
“We frequently exercise self-censorship to adapt to different markets. Every country has different sets of requirements about what they consider appropriate for education materials,” Phillips said.
John Lowe, managing director of Mosaic8, an Asian educational publishing specialist based in Tokyo, confessed that authorities governed the International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN) of books to be sold.
“So it is in publishers’ interest to not publish something that would anger authorities,” Lowe said.
Despite this trend, Cambridge University Press (CUP) recently reversed a Chinese import agency’s demand to block articles from The China Quarterly journal. However, the retraction of blocked articles only occurred following public outcry. When CUP initially conceded the requested removal, China Quarterly Editor Tim Pringle expressed “deep concern and disappointment” over censorship.
“We note too that 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,” he said to the Telegraph.
Freedom of thought and expression underpin what we as publishers believe in, yet Cambridge University Press and all international publishers face the challenge of censorship.
We can confirm that we received an instruction from a Chinese import agency to block individual articles from The China Quarterly within China. We complied with this 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.
We are aware that other publishers have had entire collections of content blocked in China until they have enabled the import agencies to block access to individual articles. We do not, and will not, proactively censor our content and will only consider blocking individual items (when requested to do so) when the wider availability of content is at risk.
We will not change the nature of our publishing to make content acceptable in China, and we remain committed to ensuring that access to a wide variety of publishing is possible for academics, researchers, students and teachers in this market.
As the world’s oldest publishing house, CUP has been steadfast in their values and openly advocated the freedom of expression. Though they did not succumb to authorities and resort to censorship on this occasion, whether they will be able to tolerate further pressurizing commands from the moguls of the Chinese book market and continue to prioritize academic freedom over profitability, we cannot be certain.
Feature image courtesy of Reuters Africa