Second academic journal, publisher say pressed to censor China content

BEIJING/LONDON (AFP, REUTERS) - A second academic journal has received requests to censor content in China, following an international outcry after Cambridge University Press (CUP) temporarily agreed to block sensitive articles from another publication under pressure from Beijing.

The United States-based Association for Asian Studies (AAS) said Tuesday (Aug 22) that CUP, its online publisher, had received a request to remove 100 articles from the Journal of Asian Studies.

It was the second time in days that a journal published by CUP revealed that it had received such a demand from China.

"The officers of the association are extremely concerned about this violation of academic freedom, and the AAS is in ongoing discussions with CUP about how it will respond to the Chinese government," the association said in a statement on its website, adding that no articles had been removed.

"We oppose censorship in any form and continue to promote a free exchange of academic research among scholars around the world," it said.

Separately on Tuesday, LexisNexis, a provider of legal, regulatory and business information, said it had withdrawn two products from the Chinese market in March this year after it was asked to remove some content.  “Earlier this year LexisNexis Business Insight Solutions in China was asked to remove some content from its database,”LexisNexis said in a statement. 

“In March 2017, the company withdrew two products (Nexis and LexisNexis Academic) from the Chinese market.” LexisNexis is owned by information group Relx. 

The statements came after CUP blocked and then, under intense international pressure, restored access to hundreds of articles on its website from the journal China Quarterly, including many about the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, the status of Tibet and the Chinese democracy movement.

The initial decision was taken "reluctantly" following a "clear order" from CUP's Chinese importer, Cambridge University said in a statement, adding it was a "temporary measure" pending discussion with the university's academic leadership and the importer.

But the censorship of the digital version of a respected scholarly journal outraged international scholars, who saw it as a curb on academic freedom and an attempt to censor history.

Dr Christopher Balding, economics professor at Peking University in Shenzhen, China, swiftly launched a petition calling on the CUP to "refuse the censorship request", provoking a quick turnaround from CUP.