Email: ABA Canceled Book for Fear of China

April 19, 2016

The American Bar Association rescinded an offer it made to publish a book on human rights lawyers in China out of fear of upsetting the Chinese government, according to a leaked email from an ABA employee obtained by Foreign Policy. The ABA, however, maintains that the employee's email misrepresents the association's reasons for not publishing the book.

The ABA's publishing arm commissioned the book, Darkness Before Dawn, in December 2014. In January 2015 an unnamed ABA employee sent an email to the book's author, Teng Biao, withdrawing the offer: “Apparently, there is concern that we run the risk of upsetting the Chinese government by publishing your book,” the employee wrote, “and because we have ABA commissions working in China there is fear that we would put them and their work at risk.”

In the email the employee offered to help Teng find another publisher and wrote that “this has the potential to be an amazing book.”

ABA officials did not question the authenticity of the employee's email but said in a statement to Foreign Policy that “the decision not to proceed with publication of the book Darkness Before Dawn was made for purely economic reasons, based on market research and sales forecasting conducted by the association’s publishing group.”

“Unfortunately, the reasons resulting in the decision were miscommunicated to Mr. Teng,” the statement from Robert T. Rupp, an ABA executive, said.

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