FreedomInfo | China’s Leaders Endorse Disclosure as the `Norm' - Freedom Info: "By Jamie P. Horsley (Executive Director, The China Law Center and Senior Research Scholar, Yale Law School)
In an important policy decision adopted at the conclusion of a four-day plenary meeting of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee from October 20-23, the Party endorsed disclosure as the norm, with non-disclosure as the exception, a slight reconfiguration of the presumption of transparency it has supported in principle for nearly a decade. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)
While they have recently tightened up on freedoms of expression, the press, association and assembly, China’s leaders seem increasingly to recognize that government transparency generally and freedom of information – the disclosure of government-held records — specifically help to better govern the country. Transparency can help the public better understand, participate in and comply with law and policy, help to restrain government power and curb corruption, and help build public trust in the Party as well as the state apparatus.
Disclosure and transparency are themes that run throughout the Party’s Fourth Plenum “Decision on Certain Major Issues in Comprehensively Promoting Governing the Country in Accordance with Law” (Chinese original HERE Unofficial English translation available HERE )
Policies set forth in the Decision will apply nationally and down to the township level, and not only to the government, but also to the people’s congresses, the procuratorates that investigate and bring cases and the courts that try them, as well as the Party itself.
Scientific and Democratic Legislation
The Decision calls for more transparent and participatory legislative and rulemaking processes, together with improved expertise and use of third party assessments, to achieve what is called “scientific and democratic legislation,” a term that includes both congressional lawmaking and government rulemaking.
Although both the peoples’ congresses and government departments at all levels are currently publishing draft laws and regulations for comment prior to finalization as a matter of policy, systems for public participation in legislation, including more experiments with authorizing third parties such as scholars and other experts to prepare drafts of laws and regulations and having social organizations, experts and scholars also consult on particularly controversial legislation, are to be improved. So is a mechanism to provide feedback on the public’s comments, something that the National People’s Congress has experimented with and that some local congresses and governments currently do but which, like detailed “notice and comment” procedures, has not been legalized through binding law or regulations.
The Decision recognizes the role that public feedback and explanation of why a final law or regulation turned out the way it did can help build greater public consensus.
Following the Fourth Plenum, the State Council issued a notice calling for the first time for suggestions from the public on regulations that should be placed on its rulemaking agenda to carry out the initiatives put forward at the Party meetings over the past two years, citing the goal of deepening its scientific and democratic legislative process."...
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