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City turns spotlight on process practices
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-04-06 23:58

Shanghai municipal government will be more open to public scrutiny than ever before, beginning in May, officials say.

The move is part of the municipal government's work plan to make the actions of government more transparent to strengthen public services and increase confidence in the city and its officials.

Every government body in Shanghai will be required to establish a special department and hotline for public inquiries by the end of this month, officials said at a conference held last Sunday.

Officials hope the move will ensure individuals' legal rights of access to public information."Most information should be publicized,"Vice-Mayor Feng Guoqin said.

Under the new regulations, only information that would reveal actual State secrets, breach commercial confidentiality, infringe on individual's right to privacy or affect law enforcement activities can be kept confidential.

Items still under government investigation can also be withheld from the public temporarily, according to the regulations.

But the government at various levels should voluntarily publicize activities on official websites and bulletin boards. That includes information on urban planing and construction, governmental fiscal budgets, economic development plans, social security policies and the enrollment of government officials, according to the regulations.

Hard copies of such files should be available in the local archives.

As for some other government information, individuals and social organizations can make direct inquiries of relevant government bodies, said officials.

Overseas enterprises and individuals can also have access to public government information, according to Jiao Yang, a government spokesperson.

"Domestic and overseas journalists will also be treated equally when inquiring about relevant government information," Jiao told a recent news conference.

Shanghai Information Commission will be in charge of supervising the implementation of the new regulations and the commission will release an annual evaluation report every March on each government body's information release work, according to Jiao.

Local experts, however, pointed out the release of the government information regulations marked only an initial step and the implementation process may be more important and challenging.

"To publicize government information is actually a kind of service to meet various knowledge demand from individuals and organizations and is not an easy task," said Wang Limin, a professor of Shanghai-based East China University of Politics and Law.

And if officials sometimes don't want to release certain information, they can still find loopholes in the new rules, Wang noted.

"Without sufficient protection, people's interest may soon die away," he said, "especially if they experience several instances of being denied information."

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