Legal News

China’s "Freedom of Information" Act Just Enacted. Blink and you May Miss it.

China FOIA

The Australian has an article on China’s just enacted Information Disclosure Act, entitled Chinese FOI act tied by red tape. The purpose of this new Act is to improve governance, not to grant citizens any sort of right to know:

Despite this, Dr Cheng Jie [a constitutional law professor at Qinghua University in Beijing] believes the new disclosure regulation, promulgated by China’s State Council, or cabinet, and eight years in the making, does mark incremental progress in accountability. The main application, she says, will be for individuals seeking information about issues such as compensation claims from the Chinese Government.

She says it is not a concession to the right to know, which would require legislation by the National People’s Congress or parliament.

It amounts, she says, to a concession instead to the need for better governance, and for more participation by individual citizens in the Government’s decision-making processes.

Dr Cheng says it is in the nature of a “self-revelation” initiative from the Government, and that a non-government organisation or journalist pressing this button too hard risks imperiling their relationship with the Government.

These government disclosure requirements have been in effect since 2004 in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Wuhan as part of a pilot program and the article discusses how that pilot program has helped a bit, but certainly less than hoped.

One response to “China’s "Freedom of Information" Act Just Enacted. Blink and you May Miss it.”

  1. Don’t know what kind of legislation they have in the States, but this given free rein freedom of information laws can really shake things up. Since the UK Freedom of Information Act 2000 was brought in whole loads of things have come out that would have other wise remained secret for at least 30 years, including:
    – a 1980’s plan to use dolphins to search Loch Ness for the mythical monster
    – Tony Blair spent 2,000 quid ($4000) on cosmetics over six years
    – a secret torture program operated by the British secret service in Germany after world war two
    – the UK have extradited four times more people to the US than have sent back since the extradition treaty came into effect (the US sentate still hasn’t ratified it – and the Chinese think they are the only ones who suffered under ‘unequal treaties’!)
    – that DNA tests showed that 3,094 men have been wrongly identified as the father of a child by the mother and forced to make maintenance payments
    – that Robert Maxwell was under investigation for war crimes at the time of his death
    – that government legal advice had suggested that Prince Charles’ marriage to Camilla Parker-Bowles would be illegal
    Given the way in which such laws can be used to hold government to account, it is absolutely no surprise that having passed such a law, the communist government should be so anxious to make sure that nobody uses it.
    See here for other examples of what else would have otherwise been collecting dust in some government vault in Whitehall –
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk
    /tol/global/article1471409.ece?token=null&offset=12

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