CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 December 2017

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Hammer and sickle censorship jams Down Under printing presses

HONG KONG (SE): The long arm of hammer and sickle censorship has reached the presses of Allen & Unwin, Australia’s leading publisher and longtime promoter of academic literature.
 
It made a sudden decision to return the manuscript to the author of a book called, Silent Invasion: How China is turning Australia into a puppet state, by Adelaide academic, Clive Hamilton, for what are being described as spurious reasons.
 
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that in returning the manuscript to Hamilton on November 8, Allen & Unwin said, “We have no doubt that Silent Invasion is an extremely significant book.”
 
However, it cited potential threats to the book and the company from possible action by Beijing.
 
In clarifying its position, the company told Hamilton, “The most serious of these threats was the very high chance of a vexatious defamation action against Allen & Unwin and possibly against you as well.”
 
The publisher described itself as an obvious target for Beijing’s agents of influence.
 
Hamilton, who has had eight books published by Allen & Unwin and has been decorated with an Order of Australia for his contribution to public debate, called the about turn a watershed in the controversy over China’s suppression of free speech.
 
The Australian national broadcaster quoted Hamilton as saying, “What we’re seeing… is the first instance where a major western publisher has decided to censor material of the Chinese Communist Party in its home country.”
 
While China has moved against other foreign publishers over material circulated in China itself, this is believed to be the first time that hammer and sickle censorship has reached the printing presses of a foreign country.
 
The Cambridge University Press agreed to squash individual articles in some of its online publications deemed too sensitive for circulation on the mainland back in August this year, even though they were only being seen by academics and researchers.
 
But in addition to the ones suppressed by the publisher, over 300 other articles from The China Quarterly have been blocked by Chinese censors.
 
This prompted the editor of the respected journal, Tim Pringle, to say, “We note too that this restriction of academic freedom is not an isolated move, but an extension of policies that have narrowed the space for public engagement and discussion across Chinese society.”
 
Pringle adds that his publication is not a fly by night rag, but a high standard journal that scholars from all over the world choose to publish in.
 
Pringle also noted that this is not an isolated incident and several publishers have been affected, but Hamilton’s case appears to be a first.
 
However, AsiaNews argues that the new era that the president of China, Xi Jinping, has decided is now in effect is really a throwback to the old era of tight censorship, scholars forced into silence and blocked websites.
 
Although the means of enforcement may not be so draconian, the end result is much the same, with the whiff of criticism of the Communist Party no longer allowed to foul the pure air of rarified thought.
 
Radio Free Asia reported that a professor at the Institute of Economics at Guizhou University, Yang Shaozheng, has been told that all his lectures are hereby cancelled.
 
Yang told the American-funded broadcaster that he was told it was something he said and that the termination order came from higher up.
 
He explained that some articles that he had sent to a retired publishing editor in Chongqing were deemed too sensitive by the police and they told him that he had better shut his mouth and refrain from making political statements.
 
Xi told the National Party Congress in his marathon opening speech on October 18 that the Party must strongly oppose anything that undermines its authority.
 
He is on record as asking in Guangdong in 2012, “Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse?” In replying to his own question, he said, “An important reason was that their ideals and beliefs had been shaken.”
 
However, in giving a more detailed explanation, Xi went on, saying, “To dismiss the history of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Communist Party, to dismiss Lenin and Stalin, and to dismiss everything else is to engage in historic nihilism, and it confuses our thoughts and undermines the Party’s organisations on all levels.”
 
Nevertheless, the Chinese ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, remained poker faced, saying that the claims of the prestigious publisher and the respected professor from Charles Sturt University in Adelaide are totally unfounded and they are only trying to stir up China panic in the neighbourhood.
 
However, the publisher told Hamilton that after receiving legal advice it thought it best to wait “until certain legal matters are cleared up.”
 
It is expected that the administration of the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, will unveil legislation to protect the nation from foreign influence in the near future and the publisher appears to believe both it and the author will be better protected after that is passed in the parliament.
 
There has been much debate about China’s meddling ways in Australia’s academic life, where whether by design or decree, frustration or infuriation, humiliation or ridicule, its students have acted in a highly disruptive and recalcitrant manner on university campuses.
 
But the reach of the hammer and sickle into the printing presses Down Under has taken the confrontation to another level.

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