Amidst the uproar, the chief publishing officer of Brill reached out to me on the Twitter thread seeking a “better understanding” of the situation. Brill’s publishing director for Asian studies later contacted me by email, claiming that “an honest mistake was made by soliciting a review of a book that lies outside the scope of the relevant journal” (which is supposedly about China’s historical relations with other Asian countries), and that “this was then exacerbated by mistakenly citing the wrong reasons for the editor-in-chief’s reluctance to publish the review.”
On digging deeper, I came to believe that this was not an “honest mistake” (they chased up the review several times, after all) but that the journal would not allow my review to criticize the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) policies in Xinjiang. I discovered that the editor-in-chief, a professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, conducts formal research on Xinjiang and Tibet, and claims state-minority relations as one of his specializations. In 2013, he wrote an op-ed in Ta Kung Pao, Hong Kong’s pro-CCP paper, in which he identifies “outside influences, especially from the western world and the Muslim world” as one of six sources of the region’s unrest. I shared this information with Brill, but they haven’t responded yet. Having opened a Beijing office in 2017 to “strength[en] Brill’s presence in China,” that response may never come. The journal launched as planned in February 2019.