BEIJING • One of Australia's largest independent publishers said it decided to delay the publication of a book that alleges widespread Chinese government influence in Australian institutions due to legal concerns.
Sydney-based Allen & Unwin said in a statement on Sunday it had decided to delay publication of the book, Silent Invasion, following "extensive legal advice". It said the book's author, Mr Clive Hamilton, was unwilling to delay publication and requested the return of the book's rights.
Mr Hamilton, an Australian who has previously published eight books with Allen & Unwin, said the "shadow cast by Beijing is enough to make them so nervous about the consequences of publishing criticism of the Communist Party".
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said yesterday that while she was unaware of the specific contractual details between the author and publisher, she "would be concerned if there were any attempts to stifle free speech in Australia, particularly at the behest of a foreign government".
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily news briefing yesterday that he was unaware of the issue, but that China was committed to developing exchanges and cooperation with Australia in all areas on the basis of mutual respect and equality.
Concern in Australia that Beijing may be extending its influence in the country has become a topic of political debate and media coverage over the past year.
In June, Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Fairfax Media, publisher of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, published reports saying that there was a concerted campaign by China and its proxies to "infiltrate" the Australian political process and institutions to promote Chinese interests.
China has denied the claims in the reports, which the Chinese Foreign Ministry has said were "totally unfounded and irresponsible".
Mr Hamilton said his book was the "first comprehensive national study of Beijing's programme of exerting influence on another nation".
It documented the influence and penetration of the Chinese Communist Party in Australian political parties, universities and cultural organisations, as well as the Chinese diaspora in Australia, he added.
The delay of the book comes after two international publishing houses - Springer Nature, which publishes science magazines Nature and Scientific American, and Cambridge University Press - were criticised recently for restricting access to articles on sensitive subjects in China. Beijing has said all publications imported into China must comply with Chinese laws and regulations.