A Case of Justifiable Plagiarism

There is an Internet forum hot topic based upon the China Youth Daily article.  The act of plagiarism had occurred in the sense that multiple passages from one author's (Wang Tiancheng) prior works appeared in other authors' (Zhou Yezhong and his student) later book either intact or with only minor modifications but without attribution.  

Here is the translation of the last part of the article:

The reporter called up Professor Zhou Yezhong.  Professor Zhou said over the telephone that "if there is anything bad about this, then it had nothing to with the writers."  "It is not only unrelated to the first author, but it has nothing to do with the second author either."  "We followed all the academic procedures.  There were no problems."

"This matter is too complicated," said Zhou Yezhong.

The reporter asked if there is any other hidden circumstances.

Zhou Yizhong said: "The hidden circumstance is very simple.  You can get on the Internet to look up Wang Tiancheng's background and you will understand."

It should be mentioned when Wang Tiancheng's post accusing Zhou and his co-author of plagiarism appeared on November 23 at the Century Academy Forum, another post under the ID "glory5678" appeared on November 24 to "reveal" the so-called "truth of the Zhou Yezhong incident."  It was alleged that "all the references and annotations in Zhou's manuscript to Wang Tiancheng ... were deleted."  "... Wang Tiancheng appeared to be someone who went to jail for reasons of liberalization.  Therefore, according to the publishing discipline at the unit, such names cannot appear in any open publication or media."  "Therefore, the editor at the People's Publishing House asked Zhou to ... delete all the references.  Zhou was busy, so he asked his co-author student Dai to take care of it.  When the manuscript was returned to People's Publishing House, the editor saw that not everything was taken out and therefore took care to delete what remained."  This post has not been verified and the identity of the poster is unknown.

When the reporter asked Zhou Yezhong: "Is it on account of Wang Tiancheng's background that all the references and annotations were deleted?" Zhou replied, "Yes."

"Was the deletion done by you or by the publishing house?" the reporter persisted.

"Why did I say that it had nothing to do with us?" Zhou Yezhong replied in this manner.

"Was it deleted with your permission?" the reporter asked again.

"Earlier, I said that we bear no responsibility.  So what do you think?  It was definitely done without our knowledge," Professor Zhou said.  "The authors definitely have no responsibility."

Zhou said that he had read Wang Tiancheng's essays on the Internet.  "I don't agree with some of the things, but there are other things that made sense" but "before I wrote my book, I did not know about his background."


But Wang Tiancheng did not accept this explanation.  "With someone like Zhou Yezhong, how could the publishing house not say anything to him after deleting so many references and annotations?  The editor has to worry about copyright disputes," he said.  "Moreover, if they deleted the annotations because it was not right to show them, why shouldn't they delete all the cited text as well?"

Wang Tiancheng wonders -- just because of his 'background,' his copyrights don't get protection?

The reporter contacted the editor of the book Wan Qi for an interview.  Wan Qi said: "Concerning this matter, there will be no outside interviews" and "It is inappropriate to discuss this matter now, for we are taking care of it."  A People's Publishing Company leader said that the reason why they won't give interviews is that "the details of how our publishing house handle these manuscripts are not disclosed to the outside" and "we know what the details are."

"As scholars, we don't want this matter to get so complicated.  We can be impacted and we get slimed, but so be it," said Zhou Yezhong.  "First, no matter what happens, I am not going to pay attention to this matter; second, there will be an explanation from someone about what happened; third, there will be someone who is going to accept the responsibility."

So who is going to accept the responsibility?