Author blames retraction on ‘Chinese censorship’

Thomas Ameyaw-Brobbey

A former assistant professor of international relations at Yibin University in Sichuan, China, said he was fired from his job and “forced” to retract a paper on COVID-19 because the article did not “paint a good picture of the Chinese government.”

In the 2021 paper, Thomas Ameyaw-Brobbey, now an adjunct lecturer at Accra Business School in Ghana and an adjunct research fellow at the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College, discussed the negative effects of the pandemic on the global public opinion of Chinese leadership and how the outbreak fostered  an “unfavorable image” of China.

After the article appeared in the Journal of International Studies, authorities at Yibin University held several meetings with Ameyaw-Brobbey asking him to explain the paper and why he used a dataset of public opinion in the United States that was “likely to be biased towards China,” he said.

Ameyaw-Brobbey used data from the Pew Research Center which, according to their website, is a “nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world.” Pew specifically measured opinions relating to the subject under investigation in the paper, Ameyaw-Brobbey said. In one of the meetings with Yibin officials, they asked why he did not use a Japanese public opinion survey instead.

Yibin “forced” him to retract his paper, and he cooperated with the journal for retraction, Ameyaw-Brobbey said. The paper was retracted in December 2021. The journal has not posted a retraction notice – which goes against guidelines from the Committee on Publication Ethics – but the PDF of the article is watermarked “retracted.” The journal  is published by Poland’s Centre of Sociological Research. The editor in chief, Jurij Bilan, did not respond to our request for comment through phone or email.

“Although the paper had no scientific problem and the journal duly recognized that the paper satisfied all scientific requirements, the Chinese university, basing on political reason, claimed the paper did not glorify China and did not paint a good picture of Chinese government,” Ameyaw-Brobbey told Retraction Watch. “The paper unnecessarily became a victim of Chinese censorship and lack of academic freedom.” 

Ameyaw-Brobbey said he was fired without reason from his position at Yibin University in December 2021. His full notice of termination letter, seen by Retraction Watch, stated:

According to the “Foreign Staff Employment Contract with Yibin University”, after discussion, our university has decided to terminate the employment contract with you. Hereby inform.

Yibin University did not respond to our requests for comment through phone, email or their online chatbot service.

“It doesn’t hurt me anymore at this time when I remember or talk about it,” Ameyaw-Brobbey said on his decision to speak out three years later. “However, the incident deeply affected my emotional and mental status during the period. I struggled to sleep at night and the episodes and meeting proceedings always relapsed in my sleep.”

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8 thoughts on “Author blames retraction on ‘Chinese censorship’”

  1. Why do the articles of Didier Raoult being censored by the government take a different slant? Hypocrites.

  2. The articles by Didier Raoult you are referring to are just flawed. It has less to do with censorship than with scientific integrity. And, in the case of Ameyaw-Brobbey, as far as we know there is no scientific misconduct, nor any dubious publication practice.

    1. Lol. He was accused of stealing feces without a permit. That doesn’t change the science.

      1. If this is the main conclusion you have derived from the whole story, then it is indeed probably going to be hard to discuss.

  3. The author’s statement and the information presented are perfectly consistent with CCP policy. No critique of method or data is presented. It is purely censorship. RW should condemn this and other Orwellian actions.

  4. The choice of a source for data must always be justified. However much Pew claims it is “neutral” it’s list of funders does raise questions about impartiality:
    John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
    John Templeton Foundation
    Lilly Endowment Inc.
    Templeton Religion Trust
    The Asian American Foundation (TAAF)
    Chan Zuckerberg Initiative DAF, an advised fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation
    Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
    The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations
    Doris Duke Foundation
    Henry Luce Foundation
    M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust
    The Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation
    The Long Family Foundation
    The Sobrato Family Foundation

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