Letter of Protest at Interference in EACS Conference in Portugal, July 2014

To whom it may concern

At the recent conference in Portugal of the European Association for Chinese Studies (EACS) that began on 23 July 2014 the conference organizers in the University of Minho and Coimbra University jointly prepared two separate documents for the conference participants, namely the Conference Programme and the Conference Abstracts.

The Conference Programme, which is over ninety pages in length, was intended to provide essential information to conference participants regarding the schedule of the conference panels, the conference’s many sponsors, and events taking place during the conference. The Conference Abstracts, as the title suggests, is a collection of all the abstracts of presentations to be given at the conference; it is over three hundred pages in length.

The costs for producing the Conference Programme were covered by the conference fees paid by the EACS members themselves. The costs for producing the Conference Abstracts were covered by a grant received by the University of Minho from the Confucius China Studies Program that is administered by the Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing.

When registering for the conference on 23 July hundreds of conference participants were not provided with Conference Programme. When eventually the Conference Programme was distributed on 24 July, the conference participants were shocked and dismayed when they realized that important pages had been deleted from the Conference Programme. The pages contained information regarding the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation (CCKF), which has sponsored EACS conferences for more than twenty years; the book exhibition and book donation organized by the Taiwan National Central Library that have become regular features of EACS conferences; the names of the book publishers attending the conference; the conference’s sponsors at Coimbra University, essential information regarding conference events in Coimbra, and useful information regarding the Confucius China Studies Program. This is the first occasion in the history of the EACS that its conference materials have been censored.

Vice-Minister Xu Lin, Director-General of the Confucius Institute Headquarters, who was at that time visiting Portugal, issued a mandatory request regarding the removal of pages from the Conference Programme. While the Confucius Institute Headquarters could have requested the removal of mention of its support to the conference from the Conference Abstracts, prior to the conference, the arbitrary seizure of conference materials and deletion of pages in an unauthorized manner after the conference had commenced was extremely injudicious.

Under no circumstances will the EACS ever bow to demands to censor the contents of conference materials that its members have themselves funded, in this case its Conference Programme, by, for example, altering the text provided by its long-term sponsor the CCKF, or by deleting mention of the exhibition and donation of books by the Taiwan National Central Library, or by the deletion of any other information that conference organizers deem relevant to include.  

Such interference in the internal organization of the international conference of an independent and democratically organized non-profitable academic organization is totally unacceptable. It cannot and will never be tolerated by the EACS. The EACS standpoint is that conference support does not result in the ‘ownership’ of the conference or its materials (no matter how much or little support has been given) by any sponsor. Providing support to a conference does not give any sponsor the right to dictate parameters to academic topics or to limit open academic presentation and discussion, on the basis of political requirements.

Further detailed information regarding the above-mentioned events may be found in the Report titled ‘The Deletion of Pages from EACS Conference materials in Braga (July 2014)’ available on the EACS website.

Roger Greatrex

President, EACS
August 1, 2014