from the comments-that-insult-our-intelligence dept
It’s no secret that the Chinese authorities wish to have control over every aspect of life in China, including what people say and do online. Here they are laying down what academic papers people can read, as reported by a new story in the New York Times:
One of the world’s largest academic publishers was criticized on Wednesday for bowing to pressure from the Chinese government to block access to hundreds of articles on its Chinese website.
Springer Nature, whose publications include Nature and Scientific American, acknowledged that at the government’s request, it had removed articles from its mainland site that touch on topics the ruling Communist Party considers sensitive, including Taiwan, Tibet, human rights and elite politics.
The publisher defended its decision, saying that only 1 percent of its content was inaccessible in mainland China.
“This action is deeply regrettable but has been taken to prevent a much greater impact on our customers and authors and is in compliance with our published policy,” the statement said. “This is not editorial censorship and does not affect the content we publish or make accessible elsewhere in the world.”
According to Springer, it is not really censoring articles in China, because people outside can still read them. That insults both Chinese researchers, whom Springer clearly thinks don’t count, and our intelligence.
What makes Springer’s pusillanimity even more reprehensible is that another leading academic publisher was also told to censor articles in China, but took a different course of action. Back in August, Cambridge University Press (CUP) was ordered by the Chinese authorities to censor 300 articles from its journal China Quarterly. Initially, like Springer, it complied, but came to its senses a couple of days later:
It said the academic leadership of the university had reviewed the publisher’s decision and agreed to reinstate the blocked content with immediate effect to “uphold the principle of academic freedom on which the university’s work is founded”.
If Springer fails to do the same, researchers will be justified in concluding that, unlike CUP, it does not uphold that principle of academic freedom. In which case, they may decide to publish their future work elsewhere.