When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Beijing police on Tiananmen square
Beijing police on Tiananmen square
Qi Yue

-Analysis-

BEIJING - One of the stated functions of the Ministry of Environmental Protection is to monitor the environment, and to publish the findings. But when a Beijing lawyer asked the Ministry to publish its national soil pollution survey, he was turned away. The reason? The findings were a state secret.

In China, the "state secret” is a concept the government routinely uses when it doesn’t want to disclose information. Governments should follow the principle of ‘disclosure as a rule, secrecy as an exception.’ Unfortunately, in this country the exact opposite is the standing rule: ‘keep everything secret and disclosures as exceptions.’

For instance, when the public demanded the releaseof the minutes of meetings for the formulation of new national dairy standards, the Ministry of Health refused on the grounds that it would create "consternation in the community and unnecessarily burden administrative staff."

And when people asked the Ministry of Railways to make the tendering process of its new and very expensive online booking service public, they were told to mind their own business. Same when they asked about how much money had been collected from tolls on the Beijing Capital Airport Expressway and where the money had gone… the list of state secrets is long.

Article 9 of China’s Open Government Information Regulations says that "Administrative organs should disclose government information that involves the vital interests of citizens, legal persons or organizations; information that needs to be extensively known or participated in by the general public.”

Clearly, information relating to soil contamination data involves the vital interests of citizens and should be made public, and contamination management needs public participation. Article 10 goes further and “emphasizes disclosure of information on the supervision and inspection of environmental protection, public health, safe production, food and drugs and product quality.”

It is clear that the national soil contamination data is in line with every aspect of these provisions and should be denied the state secret treatment.

Lazy governance

Of course, we understand the government officials’ worry that a disclosure of information could create a panic. But this fear does not seem justified – as was recently proved by the case of PM 2.5 particulate matter pollution. After Beijing authorities were finally forced to publish its air quality measurements, which showed the city’s air pollution had reached dangerous levels, there was no panic. On the contrary, the capital's residents became more aware of environmental protection and the sales of fireworks decreased.

[rebelmouse-image 27086372 alt="""" original_size="500x354" expand=1]

Beijing fog over Tiananmen Square - Photo: michael davis-burchat

So why are there so many state secrets? The reason is the authorities’ lazy governance – they know that publishing information will give them additional work and will complicate their lives. They have obviously forgotten that as civil servants, their rights are endowed by the people and should be used for the people.

If our officials realized this, then they would know that the national soil pollution survey, which took years to conduct and cost taxpayers much money, should be made public. Not to mention that it is just nonsense to refuse the public’s demands for disclosure.

This is why China needs to set up an oversight and accountability mechanism so that public institutions stop denying public requests for transparency. Our representatives should play a more positive role. This is definitely something that should be addressed at this year’s National People’s Congress – our 3,000 representatives’ true mission is to respond to public issues of general interest.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

Why Fast-Tracking Ukraine's NATO Entry Is Such A Bad Idea

Ukraine's President Zelensky should not be putting pressure for NATO membership now. It raises the risk of a wider war, and the focus should be on continuing arms deliveries from the West. After all, peace will be decided on the battlefield.

American soldiers from the U.S. army during a training exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany

Christoph B. Schiltz

-OpEd-

Nine NATO member states from Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans are now putting pressure on the military alliance to welcome Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been calling for "accelerated accession."

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

As understandable as it is that his country wants to join a strong defensive military alliance like NATO, the timing is wrong. Of course, we must acknowledge the Ukrainian people's heroic fight for survival. But Zelensky must be careful not to overstretch the West's willingness to support him.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ