Advice | August 22, 2017 12:15 pm

Cambridge University to Republish Hundreds of Online Articles in Rebuke of China

Cambrigde University Press originally blocked the articles at Beijing's request.

The publishing house of Cambridge University plans to republish hundreds of articles on its Chinese site that had been previously blocked at Beijing’s request. The publishing house faced a global backlash after the decision to block the articles was originally made.

Academics reacted with outrage that one of the world’s oldest publishing houses would “bow to the demands of Beijing’s censors” writes The Wall Street JournalThe house previously confirmed Friday that it had blocked more than 300 articles on its Chinese site that dealt with “sensitive material” such as pro-democracy Tiananmen protests to Tibet. The articles had all been previously published by in the China Quarterly, which is one of the most prestigious China-focused academic journals in the field, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

Beijing has grown more aggressive in policing internet content in China under Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Wall Street Journal writes. The country has blocked multiple Western media outlets.

In a recent statement, Cambridge University Press said, effective immediately, all previously blocked content would be reinstated.

“Academic freedom is the overriding principle on which the University of Cambridge is based,” the statement said, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

After the news that the publishing house was going to block content got out, academics around the globe signed a petition calling for the articles to be reinstated. Others wrote letters urging the publishing house to reconsider.

Greg Distelhorst, an assistant professor at MIT Sloan School of Management, wrote one of those letters, and was “encouraged” by the publishing house’s swift response and reversal. However, he said the underlying issue of Chinese censorship is not going away, and there are Chinese researchers who risk being cut off from the global academic community.

If Chinese authorities block Cambridge academic titles online, “that’s going to make life more difficult for Chinese academics,” he said to the Wall Street Journal.