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China’s Supreme People’s Court clarifies trial procedures in citizens suing local governments over information disclosure

In May 2008, the State Council issued “Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on Open Government Information” (中华人民共和国政府信息公开条例) went into law, requiring government departments to disclose a very wide range of information to the public and media. (See my prior article, “China’s determined and long march towards rule of law.”) Since then I have been keeping an eye out for new developments. China’s media watchdog, General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), few weeks ago declared illegal for governments or any other entities to blacklist journalists or to stop them from reporting.

Today, I saw this Xinhua report on China’s Supreme People’s Court clarifying trial procedures in citizens suing local governments over information disclosure. It clarifies how citizens could sue. This is a very important message to the public on what rights they have.

Not a lot of details, but it does give us an idea China is moving seriously more towards the publics’ right to know.

In my recent trip to China, I had a conversation with a Chinese auto worker, who thought corruption is the most pressing problem. I offered the idea that these measures taken by Chinese society now to force government departments to disclose information will help. And, I continue to be encouraged seeing what is happening.

“Judicial rules to boost govt transparency”
Updated: 2011-08-13 18:00

BEIJING – China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC) issued a judicial explanation to regulate and standardize trial procedures for the country’s increasing number of government information disclosure cases in a bid to promote governmental transparency.

The explanation, which was issued on Friday and published in Saturday’s edition of the People’s Court Daily, a newspaper run by the SPC, confirmed that citizens may file lawsuits against their local governments if their requests for information disclosures are rejected or if they do not receive a response from the government before a specified deadline.

The regulation specified cases that the courts should accept, including governments’ denial or delay of information disclosures upon public request.

Under the new rules, citizens are also entitled to bring lawsuits if their local governments fail to respond to disclosure requests,even if they do not have a direct stake in the disclosure.
If the government is required to publicize information on its own initiative but fails to do so, citizens may first ask the government to disclose the information and sue the government if their prior requests are refused, the explanation said.

In some cases, the courts can include an order of disclosure in their sentences, which can help to solve disputes in a more timely fashion, an official with the SPC told the newspaper when explaining the rules.

China issued a regulation regarding the disclosure of government information in May 2008, ensuring public access to administrative and regulatory information.

The SPC official said that according to Friday’s explanation, government departments that deny disclosure requests must offer valid reasons for their denials or provide evidence to the courts that specifies that the requested information is classified.

Information involving state secrets, commercial secrets or individual privacy should not be released. However, commercial secrets and individual private information can be disclosed with proper consent, the explanation said.

  1. August 15th, 2011 at 01:29 | #1

    Sounds like another good regulation (China has lots of them). The question is, will it be enforced or will the citizens who attempt to sue local governments using this as justification end up in black jails like the rest of the 上访者?

    Too soon to know. But I hope it is enforced, and I wish they’d do a more serious job of enforcing a lot of these kids of regulations.

  2. raventhorn2000
    August 15th, 2011 at 06:49 | #2

    Too soon to know? Sounds like you already know.

    Perhaps too soon to speculate.

  3. August 15th, 2011 at 10:55 | #3

    lol. C.Custer clearly can read and write in English, so I wager this is a mindset issue. I’ll repeat a part of the first sentence in the article:

    increasing number of government information disclosure cases

    That means, people are suing and hence an increasing number of disclosure cases, and thus standardizing the procedures helps streamline.

  4. Al
    August 15th, 2011 at 16:33 | #4

    It definitely is a mindset issue in C.Custer case, this is just one of (too) many examples…

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