Legislators mulling a draft emergency response law Monday called for stronger
sanctions on government officials who cover up or delay the release of
information during public emergencies.
They said violators should face criminal penalties.
The current draft law, tabled at the 28th session of the Standing Committee
of the National People's Congress (NPC) for a second reading, only includes
disciplinary or administrative punishments for officials who delay or cover up
But committee member Nan Zhenzhong said the sanctions are too mild.
"Efforts to delay the release of information or cover up an emergency often
result in serious public crises," he said. "Any official responsible for such
actions must bear criminal responsibility for dereliction of duty."
The Criminal Law says officials found guilty of dereliction crimes can
receive prison sentences of up to 10 years.
Nan said the proposed stipulation was also in line with the new regulation on
openness with government information. The regulation says officials who fail to
release information that by law should be made public should face criminal
Chen Shu, an NPC deputy, said administrative punishments would not deter
officials from covering up emergencies.
"Criminal penalties must be clearly spelt out," she said.
The SARS crisis in 2003 and the pollution of the Songhua River in 2005 were
mentioned in the review. In both cases, governments came in for heavy criticism
from home and abroad for delaying and covering up information.
Also during the reading of the draft anti-monopoly law yesterday, lawmakers
attacked public service sector monopolies like telecommunications and power
generation, calling for more competition.
Committee member Wang Maolin said the draft should have provisions to
restrict monopoly players in service sectors to prevent them from manipulating
prices for higher profits and hurting the public interest.