Preemptive cross-border censorship

A particularly disturbing milestone:

LINDA MOTTRAM: Allen & Unwin’s decision to abandon publication of Clive Hamilton’s book is possibly a first. It seems no other Western publisher has previously, pre-emptively halted publication of a book in a Western market, because of pressure from China’s Communist Party.

Allen & Unwin say that threats of retaliation from China forced it to cancel plans to print “Silent Invasion: How China is Turning Australia into a Puppet State”.

So what is China’s motivation?

I spoke earlier to Professor Rory Medcalf, who’s head of the National Security College at the Australian National University in Canberra.

RORY MEDCALF: Well I think the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese leadership, is determined to reduce and supress criticism of its policies and of its authoritarian rule in other countries, particularly in other countries that are either allies of the United States, as Australia is; in other words, a country that can potentially band together with other countries to resist Chinese influence on the region.

But also, more importantly, countries like Australia where there is a large, diverse, dynamic Chinese population. China – or the Chinese Communist Party, I should say – is seeking to suppress criticism and dissent among those populations. […]

LINDA MOTTRAM: And so, you mentioned earlier this seems to have been a pre-emptive move.

There’s a suggestion of a legal threat of some sort over this book that Clive Hamilton has written, but there doesn’t seem to be anything specific.

Are they wanting to tie publishers up in court? […]

RORY MEDCALF: […] But if the details that we read today are true and that Allen & Unwin has taken this pre-emptive decision, it’s possibly the first time a Western publisher has pre-emptively chosen to stall or edit or censor what it’s doing in a Western democracy because of perceived Chinese Communist Party pressure.

And that would be a very worrying precedent for civil liberties and also for national security.

Just a couple of weeks ago we had the outcry over the Springer censorship in China, but this appears to go a lot further.

What’s happening with Allen & Unwin actually seems to be more along the lines of this case¬†from last year, but without the mitigating circumstance that the publisher in question is simultaneously trying to run an NGO in China.

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