December 24, 2018 / 10:44 AM / a month ago

British publisher pulls academic journals from China after government complaint

BEIJING (Reuters) - A British academic publisher has dropped more than 80 journals from its offerings in China at the government’s request, including the Asian Studies Review which had content deemed “inappropriate” by authorities.

They are the latest journals to be restricted since Chinese importers of foreign publications were told by authorities last year they must verify that products are legal.

The Asian Studies Association of Australia said last Thursday its journal, the Asian Studies Review, had been restricted in China.

Importers had told the publisher, Britain’s Taylor and Francis, to remove the journal from a package offered to libraries because “some of its content is deemed inappropriate by the government”, the association said in a statement.

Taylor and Francis said six articles were deemed objectionable by authorities, the association said, but the publisher declined to identify the articles because it was “commercially sensitive”.

“In recent times, the Chinese government has initiated wide-ranging censorship of academic publications, in ways that have embroiled academic publishers,” the association said.

China’s foreign ministry and State Council Information Office did not immediately respond to faxed requests for comment on Monday.

In response to the association’s statement, Taylor and Francis said last Thursday that it “does not participate in censorship in China, or anywhere else”.

However, from September 83 journals were excluded from the arts, humanities and social sciences package sold to libraries in China at the request of importers, Taylor and Francis said in a statement. It did not identify the affected journals.

“Our view has always been that everyone should be able to read the research we publish via their usual access routes,” the publisher said, adding that it was working to try to sell the entire package in China.

The censorship issue erupted in August 2017 when Britain's Cambridge University Press (CUP) removed online access to hundreds of scholarly articles in China after coming under pressure from authorities. (reut.rs/2rUyJ6B)

CUP reversed the decision and restored access to the articles within a few days.

Under President Xi Jinping, censorship efforts by the government have been heightened and the authority of the ruling Communist Party, as well as its views on society, history and politics, have been re-asserted over academia.

“It seems that the Chinese censors have fully realised that they do not need to censor anything themselves,” Nicholas Loubere, a China scholar at Lund University in Sweden, said in a tweet on Sunday.

“Rather, they can just cancel subscriptions and then let the ‘Great Paywall’ do the work for them,” he said.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; editing by Darren Schuettler

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