Australian academic's book pulled over China backlash fears

A pro China supporter holds a Chinese flag outside the dinner venue of Sha Hailin a member of Shanghai's Communist Party standing committee in Taipei Taiwan Aug. 22 2016

One of Australia's major publishers has backtracked on releasing a book detailing Chinese influence in the country - amid threats of retaliation from Beijing, the book's author says.

Clive Hamilton, a prominent Charles Sturt University professor, said Monday that publisher Allen & Unwin dropped his book "Silent Invasion" last week over fears of "retaliation from Beijing through a number of possible avenues including legal threats, orchestrated by Beijing", Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.

"After extensive legal advice we chose to delay publication of Clive's book "Silent Invasion" until certain matters now before the courts have been decided", the publisher said in a statement.

It's the latest example of how the growing global influence of China, which strictly censors content at home, is also creating difficulties for writers and publishers beyond its borders. He said the Australian government had conducted a "comprehensive review" and planned to strengthen the country's espionage and foreign interference laws.

Hamilton, an Australian who has previously published eight books with Allen & Unwin, said the "shadow cast by Beijing is enough to make them so nervous about the consequences of publishing criticism of the Communist Party".

Hamilton said another Allen & Unwin employee told him verbally that Gorman had made a decision to abandon publishing the book entirely. Even delaying it risked making large parts of the book out of date, reducing the likelihood it would ever come out, he said.

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The company said Monday it had "enormous respect" for the academic, but had chose to delay publication while legal opinion was sought. She didn't specify what those matters are.

"Clive was unwilling to delay publication and requested the return of his rights, as he is entitled to do", she said. "We continue to wish him the best of luck with the book".

The book documented the influence and penetration of the Chinese Communist Party in Australian political parties, universities and cultural organisations, as well as the Chinese diaspora in Australia, he said in a telephone interview.

China's State Council Information Office, which doubles as the ruling Chinese Communist Party's spokesman's office, did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent on Sunday. "If you're going to analyze how Beijing is influencing Australian society and politics you have to analyze that activity of individuals and name names, and that's what I've done", he told the Guardian Australia.

China has denied the claims in the reports, which the Chinese Foreign Ministry has said were "totally unfounded and irresponsible".

The publisher initially defended the move as necessary to ensure that China didn't block all of its journals.


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