Australian publisher Allen & Unwin has ditched a book on Chinese Communist Party influence in Australian politics and academia, citing fear of legal action from the Chinese government or its proxies.
The publisher’s chief executive, Robert Gorman, said last week that it would abandon publication of a completed manuscript by Clive Hamilton, a professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University, called Silent Invasion: How China Is Turning Australia into a Puppet State.
He said the “most serious of these threats was the very high chance of a vexatious defamation action against Allen & Unwin, and possibly against you personally as well”.
Allen & Unwin was “an obvious target” for “Beijing’s agents of influence”, Mr Gorman wrote.
While Australian publishers routinely deal with legal threats or court action from individuals named in books, it is exceptionally rare that a perceived threat from a foreign power prevents or delays publication.
“I’m not aware of any other instance in Australian history where a foreign power has stopped publication of a book that criticises it,” Dr Hamilton said.
“The reason they’ve decided not to publish this book is the very reason the book needs to be published.”
…Mr Gorman also wrote that the publisher believed the Chinese government is co-ordinating attacks on Australian media reports it believes critique or undermine its authoritarian regime.
…A former senior national security official told Fairfax Media that the Chinese government sought to use Western legal systems to advance or protect its interests.
…The Herald Sun recently printed a correction in connection to a report suggesting Huang Xiangmo was an agent of influence. The correction was issued after Mr Huang launched defamation action. The newspaper report was based on a leaked federal parliamentary library paper that examines Mr Huang’s political donations and describes how he heads a Sydney-based lobbying organisation aligned with the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department.
Mr Huang, who has repeatedly dismissed claims of impropriety, has also helped set up and provide seed funding to a China research institute at the University of Technology Sydney, the Australian China Research Institute, which is directed by former foreign minister Bob Carr and economist James Laurenceson. The institute is also examined in Dr Hamilton’s book.
Mr Carr and Mr Laurenceson have both critiqued reports of Beijing’s influence as overblown, while Mr Laurenceson recently tweeted the Herald Sun correction, describing it as a court “ruling”, and appearing to endorse its coverage in the Chinese government-controlled press. A report by the Communist Party-controlled Global Times described the correction as a victory for overseas Chinese and attacked the Western media for failing to report on it.
If we let it, in time, our current economic settings will cost us our democracy.