New guidelines on the dissemination of government information gives the public more right to information and to better understand its economic and social development policies.
GONE are the days of messengers conveying important policy to lower-level government departments.
The free flow dissemination of information has increased in China over the last few decades with the open policy by the Chinese government.
One can easily gain access to public information in print and electronic media and official government websites.
Notices on a new social security scheme and its perks will be posted in neighbourhoods for ordinary people who can’t afford newspapers, a television or broadband services.
It has long been China's agenda to guide its people to better understand its economic and social development policies, via state media – in the forms of a range of local newspapers and TV stations.
As the worldwide web blossomed over the years and with the influx of private and independent e-media, provincial and city governments have followed suit by opening its online portals to provide more options for Netizens.
Several major policies on dissemination of information have steered Shanghai and other Chinese cities to work harder to update their bulletin boards, electronic info boards, websites and other platforms everyday.
Effective May 1, Shanghai adopted new guidelines on dissemination of government information, giving more punch to streamline government leaders and servants’ duty of safeguarding the public right to information.
Shanghai legal affairs department chief Liu Ping told a press conference last month that the city had made tremendous progress in pushing for more transparent governance since the government began its efforts in 2004.
“The level of public participation in the city has increased. Even though other provinces and cities may have started their efforts in this respect earlier than us, the demand of information by their residents is not as great because of the pressure their governments exert,” he said.
According to Liu, the city received 112 counter proposals from the public on the information dissemination policy in 2006, compared with 227 last year.
As for grouses on the city’s administrative matters, he said there had been a good sign as the government only received 154 reports in the past four years.
In its implementation of the policy, the city government will make it a priority to make information public but if the information is not meant to be public, then the government will consider it on a case-by-case basis.
“When releasing information, officials will determine if that information is public or not. Public information are related to issues in the interest of the nation and should be available to everyone, while non-public information are that of individual or corporate interests,” Liu said.
However, any information that may “ruin” the social order as well as the economic and safety interests of the nation will not be released.
Shanghai topped the list of provinces and cities in China when it came to dissemination of information in the last four years.
Shanghai information commission vice-chief Liu Jian said basically the city would have to concentrate on opening up more channels to reach a larger audience.
“Currently, we have eight major channels, including the government’s website, spokesman policy, “residents’ mailbox” and the city’s archives department. We will surely improve all these platforms to meet the demand of the public,” he said.
More work will be done to streamline all government transactions at one-stop service counters and computerise all administrative systems to facilitate the public in making inquiries and applications, and monitoring the government better, he said.
On what kind of action can be taken against officials who fail to disclose public information, Liu Ping said that one of the reasons for the new guidelines was also to make it clear to them.
“We have regulations on disciplinary action for failure of information disclosure. For those who don’t disclose information that is supposed to be made public, we will seek public feedback on their bad attitude and make them accountable for their action,” he said.
The authorities in Shanghai seem to be following the dictum of first PM and architect of Singapore (1959-1990) ,Lee Kaun Yew,who coined : Discipline , Development and then Democracy ,in that order. We ,in India, on the other side of spectrum,are the pioneers and masters of reverse engineering,in this case reverse order : Democracy , Development and yet to reach stage Discipline.