Report: The Deletion of Pages from EACS Conference materials in Braga (July 2014)

1. Dr. Sun Lam, the EACS Conference co-organizer at the University of Minho, applied for funding for certain costs arising from the EACS Conference from the Confucius China Studies Program (CCSP).

2. The CCSP application form for an international conference grant states specifically in its final paragraph that:

”The conference is regulated by the laws and decrees of both China and the host country, and will not carry out any activities which are deemed to be adverse to the social order.” (my italics)

3. Dr. Sun Lam’s application and budget both clearly stated that the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation (CCKF) was a co-sponsor of the conference, and that the CCKF has a long history of sponsoring the EACS conference.

4. Dr. Sun Lam’s budget for a total of 28,040€ included costs for the printing of 400 copies of the Conference Abstracts (论文摘要印刷) at a cost of 7,000€, and the production of 400 conference bags at a cost of 3,500€.

5. Dr. Sun Lam’s application to the CCSP did not include any request for funds to cover preparing or printing a separate document, the Conference Programme. The cost for the production of the Conference Programme was covered entirely by the conference fees paid by EACS members.

6. Even though the CCSP did not cover the cost of printing the Conference Programme, taking into account the regulation stated in §2 above, Dr. Sun Lam sent a draft copy of the contents of the Conference Programme to the CCSP on 4 July for comment.

7. The CCSP did not reply in writing, but in a telephone call with the CCSP Dr. Sun Lam was informed that the Conference Programme was considered to be splendid (做得很漂亮).

8. Registration for the conference began at the University of Minho in Braga during the afternoon of 22 July. About one hundred participants registered for the conference and received complete copies of the Conference Programme and Conference Abstracts.

9. When Vice-Minister Xu Lin, Director-General of the Confucius Institute Headquarters (CIH), arrived in Braga in the early evening of 22 July she was shown the Conference Abstracts and Conference Programme.

10. Vice-Minister Xu Lin pointed out that there were some abstracts whose contents were contrary to Chinese regulations, and issued a mandatory request that mention of the support of the CCSP be removed from the Conference Abstracts. She was also annoyed at what she considered to be the limited extent of the Confucius Institute publicity, and disliked the CCKF self-presentation.

11. Vice-Minister Xu Lin ordered her entourage from the CIH straight away to remove all the conference materials from the conference venue and take them to the apartment of one of the Chinese teachers employed at the Confucius Institute at the University of Minho.

12. Over three hundred conference participants who registered on 23 July and began to attend the conference did not receive the Conference Programme. The conference staff members were unable to explain the situation to them.

13. When Roger Greatrex, President of the EACS, had a very brief conversation with Vice-Minister Xu Lin directly after the opening ceremony on 23 July, Vice-Minister Xu Lin stated that at least two pages had to be deleted from the Conference Programme. Before any further discussion could occur Vice-Minister Xu Lin left to have a meeting with the leadership of the University of Minho.

14. After negotiations with the Vice-Director of the CIH, Dr. Sun Lam agreed to the removal of the first page in the Conference Abstracts on which it was stated that the volume was produced with the support of the CCSP. On the condition that all the funding received from the CCSP would be returned to the CCSP, the CIH permitted the Conference Abstracts to be distributed to conference participants.

15. Vice-Minister Xu Lin refused to allow the Conference Programme to be made available to the conference participants as long as it contained the page with the CCKF self-presentation and requested that the page be altered to a large logo of the CCKF without text.

16. As a result the Conference Programme was not distributed to the conference participants on 23 July. Instead only a summary photocopied schedule was distributed.

17.  On the afternoon of 23 July Dr. Sun Lam asked Dr. Carmen Mendes, the conference co-organizer of Coimbra University, if she would allow the alteration proposed by Vice-Minister Xu Lin.

18. Dr. Carmen Mendes refused, but in the interest of enabling the conference staff in the University of Minho to distribute the Conference Programme (that contained essential information for conference participants), she allowed the CCKF page to be removed, which resulted in the CIH interference being clearly noticeable.

19. Dr. Sun Lam informed the CIH staff by telephone of this decision and they effectuated the removal of the pages during the evening of 23 July.

20. In all four pages were removed from the Conference Abstracts (one page, being the frontispiece) and the Conference Programme (three pages: 15/16, 19/20 and 59/60).

21. Page 15/16 carried information regarding the Confucius China Studies Program, as well as information on restaurants in Braga.

22. Page 19/20 carried information regarding Dr. Sun Lam and Ambassador Joao de Deus Ramos, the keynote speaker at the University of Minho, as well as information regarding the book exhibition organized by the Taiwan National Central Library and the book donation by the Taiwan National Central Library to the University of Minho. It also carried information regarding the publishers and libraries exhibiting their books and information at the conference. In many instances, however, page 19/20 was not removed from the Conference Programme for reasons that are not known.

23. Page 59/60 carried a self-presentation by the CCKF, and essential information regarding conference activities at the University of Coimbra, as well as the logos of all the conference sponsors in Coimbra.

24. On the morning of 24 July by the conference staff distributed the Conference Programmes, with pages deleted, to conference participants.

25. When in the mid-morning of 24 July Roger Greatrex was informed that conference participants were receiving Conference Programmes lacking several pages, including the page bearing the CCKF self-presentation, on his own authority he ordered the conference staff to make 500 double-sided full-colour identical copies of the original CCKF page, on paper of the same quality as that of the Conference Programme.

26. Roger Greatrex requested the conference staff to distribute these pages to the conference participants when they travelled by bus from Braga to Coimbra. This was done, and all the conference participants received the information concerning the CCKF and the events in Coimbra.

27. At the opening ceremony at Coimbra University on 25 July, Roger Greatrex emphasized that the EACS is unable to accept any attempt to censor conference materials by the CIH. He stated unequivocally that the CCKF has been a long-term, trusted and generous sponsor of EACS conferences and activities, and has never interfered in conference organization in any way.

28. At the same time that the conference participants were deprived of conference materials that they had paid for with their conference fees, the young conference staff members in Braga were shocked and disturbed by the inexplicable events occurring around them, and that they were also expected to mediate to the conference participants. Their situation was utterly deplorable.

29. While it could be argued that the CIH was entitled to request the removal of its logo from the Conference Programme and information regarding its support to the conference from the Conference Abstracts, in the case that something contravened the contract regulations stated on the CCSP Application Form, prior to the conference, the seizure of the materials in such an unauthorized manner, after the conference had already begun, was extremely injudicious, and has promoted a negative view of the Confucius Institute Headquarters.

30. The seizure and destruction of parts of the Conference Programme can only be viewed as even more arbitrary when we note that the pages that were removed from the Conference Programme were provided to the Confucius Institute Headquarters three weeks before the conference for comment, and were approved (see §7 above).

31. Ultimately, any demand to censor the contents of the Conference Programme, for example, by altering the text provided by a major co-sponsor, and by deleting mention of the exhibition and donation of books by the Taiwan National Central Library, and information regarding other sponsors and publishers attending the conference, is totally unacceptable to the EACS.

32. Censorship of conference materials cannot and will never be tolerated by the EACS.

Roger Greatrex

President, EACS
August 1, 2014