AHA Releases Statement on Censorship and Prosecution by Chinese Authorities (November 2021)

In a newly released statement, the AHA is “alarmed by news reports that Chinese authorities have escalated the censorship and prosecution of Chinese citizens who deviate from the Communist Party line of hero worship.” “Such efforts strike at the very heart of historical scholarship, which depends on open-ended inquiry and a free exchange of ideas, wherever that inquiry leads, and whether or not those ideas cast aspersions on historical actors,” the AHA states. “The AHA stands firmly against national laws and policies that in effect criminalize the historical enterprise.”

To date, 19 organizations have signed onto this statement.

Download the statement as a PDF.


Approved by AHA Council, November 2021

The American Historical Association is alarmed by news reports that Chinese authorities have escalated the censorship and prosecution of Chinese citizens who deviate from the Communist Party line of hero worship. These authorities are using a newly amended law to criminalize speech that slanders, denigrates, or ridicules anyone whom the party considers a national hero. What once was punishable by a fine now generates time in prison. Several individuals have faced arrest, conviction, and incarceration for speaking or writing about these notables in a way that does not comport with the party's view of history. Such efforts strike at the very heart of historical scholarship, which depends on open-ended inquiry and a free exchange of ideas, wherever that inquiry leads, and whether or not those ideas cast aspersions on historical actors.

Just as troubling as these instances of censorship and prosecution is the effort of the Chinese Communist Party to substitute national myth for evidence-based scholarship in the service of the party. It is a marked characteristic of authoritarian regimes to seek to control a national narrative that promotes their own political interests. China is not the only country to try to impose a reverence for its founders and military heroes in its nation's history; such efforts put at risk not only historians but anyone who engages with the past and fails to adhere to party strictures. The AHA stands firmly against national laws and policies that in effect criminalize the historical enterprise.

The following organizations have cosigned this statement:

Agricultural History Society
American Anthropological Association
American Catholic Historical Association
American Journalism Historians Association
American Society for Environmental History
Association for Documentary Editing
Berkshire Conference of Women Historians
College Art Association of America
Conference on Asian History
Forum on Early-Modern Empires and Global Interactions
French Colonial Historical Society
Immigration and Ethnic History Society
PEN America

Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media
Sixteenth Century Society & Conference
Society for the Study of Early Modern Women and Gender
Society for Textual Scholarship
Society of Civil War Historians
World History Association