Otago lecturer's article censored by China

It is "imperative'' scholars stand up for academic freedom, a University of Otago lecturer says.

The call by Jacob Edmond, of the university's English and linguistics department, came after an article in a Chinese studies journal he co-edited unexpectedly disappeared.

Associate Prof Edmond edited a special edition of Frontiers of Literary Studies in China along with Chinese programme lecturer Lorraine Wong - and was not expecting to fall foul of Chinese censorship practices.

The journal was co-published by Dutch firm Brill.

"We thought it was a sort of regular international journal publishing according to regular international practices of academic freedom,'' he said.

When Prof Edmond and Dr Wong started corresponding with people working to produce the journal, Prof Edmond said he realised the journal had an editorial office in Beijing, and was also co-published by Chinese Higher Education Press, which falls under the Chinese Ministry of Education .

When he was sent the proofs of the issue from the Beijing office, one of the essays he was intending to publish - on the work of well-known Chinese satirist Li Xiaoguai - had been removed from the issue, with no consultation.

"We withdrew the issue, with the support of all the contributers,'' he said.

Prof Edmond said everyone knew censorship happened in China, and there had also been issues where Western publishers censored some articles for a Chinese audience.

But he described what happened as a "new development''.

Other people had been "caught out'' like he had, thinking the journal was being published according to Western standards, and said he was encouraged by others in the Chinese literary studies community to speak out.

"It was a kind of co-publication deal with a Western publisher which then seemed to give the Chinese Government the ability to censor work that was published in English, and seemingly published outside China by a reputable Western publisher.''

Three of the four articles appeared in a US-based Chinese literature journal instead.

Following Prof Edmond and Dr Wong's experiences, Brill announced last week it was terminating its arrangement with the Higher Education Press in China to distribute the Frontiers of Literary Studies in China journal, and three others, starting from 2020.

elena.mcphee@odt.co.nz


 

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