Feb. 21, 2024
Three Years of Information Disclosure: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

May 5, 2011

Source: Friends of Nature blog

On April 27 2011, Friends of Nature held a “Seminar on the Third Anniversary of Environmental Information Disclosure” in Beijing. Many experts and non-governmental environmentalists participated in this conference, discussing the implementation of “The Decree of Government Information Disclosure” and “Environmental Information Disclosure for Trial Implementation” which has been in effect for three years.

Wang Canfa, professor at the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL), stated that generally speaking, information disclosure was developing and environmental departments were taking the lead.

However, Professor Wang also pointed out that there were still legislative problems concerning information disclosure. For instance, state secrets and commercial secrets are not clearly defined. The exceptions of “national security, public security, economic security and social stability” are too general. There is also unjustified intervention in environmental information disclosure. These are the excuses frequently used by the government to refuse to disclose certain information.

In addition, there are not enough personnel and funds for administrative costs allocated to the disclosure.  These are also constraints on the development of information disclosure.

At the seminar, several non-governmental environmentalists who had personally requested information disclosure confirmed Professor Wang’s words. Mao Da, PhD candidate of Beijing Normal University, requested that the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau and the Land and Resources Bureau disclose the “Risk Assessment of Waste Landfills in Beijing.” As it turned out, the Land and Resources Bureau returned the petition letter unopened, and the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau refused to disclose the information for two reasons: first, the report was incomplete and required further investigation and second, it was a “secret” that could not be disclosed.

Other requests for information disclosure had similar results, such as Zhao Lei’s request to Gaoantun Waste Burning Plant, Yang Zi’s request to Beijing Medical Waste Burning Plant, and Daerwen Research Center’s request to Hai’an Waste Burning Plant.

In reference to this, Professor Wang Canfa pointed out that requesting information disclosure required an indomitable spirit. Professor Wang gave an example of Xu Taisheng, someone who petitioned for information disclosure in Shanghai. In three years, Xu received thirteen written rulings from related authorities. Through a series of efforts including petitioning, review, indictment, appeal, further appeals and complaints as well as an appeal to the Supreme Court, he finally got the information he requested and relevant economic compensation.

Speaking about the prospects of information disclosure, Chang Cheng, head of Public Participation for the Friends of Nature organization, stated his hope that there would be more accessible legal remedies for information disclosure petitions. Whether it be administrative review or administrative litigation, he hopes that citizens are able to access legal support when they encounter trouble in their requests for information disclosure.

Li Bo, Director-General of Friends of Nature, said that he hoped there would be more communication and cooperation between environmentalists and legal professionals, to promote environmental protection using more legal measures.


Translator: Li Xiaohan

Proofreader: Lucy Chen/ Karen Marshall