- Language Tips
A graduate student from Shanghai made headlines recently when he submitted applications for the heads of 53 ministry-level government agencies to disclose their 2011 income.
So far, Lei Chuang, 25, from Shanghai Jiao Tong University has mailed his applications for information to 53 government departments, such as the National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Health, and People's Bank of China, asking for each to release their leader's 2011 income and salary structure.
"The country has pushed to establish a government official assets declaration system, but the system has not really started yet. So, I think, disclosing officials' income can serve as the beginning," Lei told China Daily on Wednesday.
Under the government information disclosure regulation, government departments should be transparent on issues that affect the public interest.
"Under this regulation, the public has the right to information about government policies that relate to the public's interests," Lei said.
China has expressed determination to set up a system of personal assets declaration for government officials, to fight corruption, but it has not disclosed a timetable. The Party, under its guidelines for 2008-12, will accelerate research and evaluation work on establishing the assets declaration mechanism.
"I hope more people can pay attention to and learn more about their governments," Lei said.
So far, he has received telephone replies from a staff member at the State Food and Drug Administration, who inquired about his purpose.
The staff member told him that the head of the administration is the deputy minister of health, and the Ministry of Health has the authority to disclose information, Lei said.
"I told them to give me a written reply. He said they needed to go into the question, and didn't refuse me outright. So I'll wait for their reply," he said.
"To publicly disclose officials' income can bring no practical results in fighting corruption. There is indeed a strict salary standard for officials in those central ministerial-level departments," said Gou Yannan, associate professor at Fudan University's School of International Relations and Public Affairs.
"More attention should be given to the detailed administrative expenditures, which is often a gray zone," he said.
In 1995, China issued a regulation requiring government officials above county-level to declare their personal assets. Since then, the country has issued rules, giving more detailed and specific requirements on officials' personal assets declaration. But the assets information was not open to the public.
"Officials' assets declaration has been a common part of anti-corruption measures in many countries and areas. And it has proved very effective in fighting graft. Our country should also accelerate setting up such a system," said Zhu Lijia, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance.
In 2009, authorities in Altay prefecture, in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, took the lead, publishing a list of the assets of more than 1,000 current and retired officials. The move was applauded by the public. So far, there are some cities in the country that have already established the pilot system for government officials' assets declaration, such as Cixi, Zhejiang province, and Liuyang, Hunan province.
Zhu said that effective supervision system should also be established.