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postgraduate thesis: An empty promise of freedom of information? : assessing the legislative and judicial protection of the right of access of government information in China

TitleAn empty promise of freedom of information? : assessing the legislative and judicial protection of the right of access of government information in China
Authors
Issue Date2013
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Chen, Y. [陳詠熙]. (2013). An empty promise of freedom of information? : assessing the legislative and judicial protection of the right of access of government information in China. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5186497
AbstractThis thesis assesses and explains the effectiveness of the legal regime for government transparency in China, with a focus on the legislative and judicial protection of citizens’ right of access to information (ATI), through a combination of normative doctrinal analysis and empirical investigation. In 2007, China promulgated the Regulation on Open Government Information (ROGI),which implicitly created a general and legally enforceable ATI right, thereby establishing a regime akin to the freedom of information (FOI) regimes that prevail in many countries worldwide. However, this nascent regime appears to have had mixed, and rather confusing, effects. Existent assessments of the regime’s effectiveness have concentrated either on the ROGI text or on data concerning bureaucratic performance and the extra-legal factors affecting that performance, but have failed to consider sufficiently the perplexities and peculiarities of the Chinese legal system that bear heavily on the ROGI’s operation. This thesis constitutes an attempt to make both substantive and methodological contributions to research in this field. The thesis is organized into three main areas. First, it analyses the relation between the ruling Communist Party’s policies and the making of local and national transparency legislation. It finds that the legislative endorsement of an ATI right resulted from several of the Party’s reform goals, which include not only the facilitation of economic prosperity and social progress but also the fostering of government accountability and public participation. These goals, although with respective limitations, overlap with the values underlying FOI law. Second, it examines the labyrinth of Chinese laws, regulations and other legal norms that regulate the disclosure of government information, particularly the ROGI and Law on Guarding State Secrets, and evaluates them against international best practice standards on FOI law. It finds that the overall legislative framework lags behind international standards, largely because it fails to stipulate a presumption of disclosure and contains multi-layered restrictions on access, thereby leaving administrative organs with an enormous degree of discretion. Third, it reviews 169 judicial decisions collected through methods specially designed to ensure their representativeness. It distils the major trends in the interpretations made and rules set by the courts and finds that, by placing restrictions on access to court, imposing a need test, failing to scrutinize state secret claims, deferring to administrative discretion in applying exemptions and avoiding injunctive relief, the courts have further reduced the normative scope of the ATI right. It argues that this inadequate judicial protection is caused not by limitations on judicial power with respect to that right, but primarily by the abandonment of duty on the part of most courts, which have either misapplied the law or deviated from the guiding cases and legal doctrine that maintain the coherence of laws and judicial autonomy. Owing to the combined effect of a weak legislative framework and largely impotent judicial protection, the ATI right has been virtually deprived of its function to enable the citizenry to monitor and check the government. It has also failed to fulfil its potential in protecting citizens’ personal and property rights. In this regard, China’s ATI right falls far short of a genuine right to freedom of information. These findings provide a necessary basis for a more accurate assessment of China’s open government information regime and a more perceptive comparison of this peculiarly Chinese regime with the FOI regimes of other countries. They also shed new light on the operation of judicial review in China. Furthermore, they indicate the barriers that must be overcome in future reforms to achieve a genuine FOI environment and highlight the interconnectedness of any such reform measures.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
SubjectFreedom of information - Law and legislation - China
Government information - Access control - China
Dept/ProgramLaw
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/197074

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorChen, Yongxi-
dc.contributor.author陳詠熙-
dc.date.accessioned2014-05-07T23:15:24Z-
dc.date.available2014-05-07T23:15:24Z-
dc.date.issued2013-
dc.identifier.citationChen, Y. [陳詠熙]. (2013). An empty promise of freedom of information? : assessing the legislative and judicial protection of the right of access of government information in China. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5186497-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/197074-
dc.description.abstractThis thesis assesses and explains the effectiveness of the legal regime for government transparency in China, with a focus on the legislative and judicial protection of citizens’ right of access to information (ATI), through a combination of normative doctrinal analysis and empirical investigation. In 2007, China promulgated the Regulation on Open Government Information (ROGI),which implicitly created a general and legally enforceable ATI right, thereby establishing a regime akin to the freedom of information (FOI) regimes that prevail in many countries worldwide. However, this nascent regime appears to have had mixed, and rather confusing, effects. Existent assessments of the regime’s effectiveness have concentrated either on the ROGI text or on data concerning bureaucratic performance and the extra-legal factors affecting that performance, but have failed to consider sufficiently the perplexities and peculiarities of the Chinese legal system that bear heavily on the ROGI’s operation. This thesis constitutes an attempt to make both substantive and methodological contributions to research in this field. The thesis is organized into three main areas. First, it analyses the relation between the ruling Communist Party’s policies and the making of local and national transparency legislation. It finds that the legislative endorsement of an ATI right resulted from several of the Party’s reform goals, which include not only the facilitation of economic prosperity and social progress but also the fostering of government accountability and public participation. These goals, although with respective limitations, overlap with the values underlying FOI law. Second, it examines the labyrinth of Chinese laws, regulations and other legal norms that regulate the disclosure of government information, particularly the ROGI and Law on Guarding State Secrets, and evaluates them against international best practice standards on FOI law. It finds that the overall legislative framework lags behind international standards, largely because it fails to stipulate a presumption of disclosure and contains multi-layered restrictions on access, thereby leaving administrative organs with an enormous degree of discretion. Third, it reviews 169 judicial decisions collected through methods specially designed to ensure their representativeness. It distils the major trends in the interpretations made and rules set by the courts and finds that, by placing restrictions on access to court, imposing a need test, failing to scrutinize state secret claims, deferring to administrative discretion in applying exemptions and avoiding injunctive relief, the courts have further reduced the normative scope of the ATI right. It argues that this inadequate judicial protection is caused not by limitations on judicial power with respect to that right, but primarily by the abandonment of duty on the part of most courts, which have either misapplied the law or deviated from the guiding cases and legal doctrine that maintain the coherence of laws and judicial autonomy. Owing to the combined effect of a weak legislative framework and largely impotent judicial protection, the ATI right has been virtually deprived of its function to enable the citizenry to monitor and check the government. It has also failed to fulfil its potential in protecting citizens’ personal and property rights. In this regard, China’s ATI right falls far short of a genuine right to freedom of information. These findings provide a necessary basis for a more accurate assessment of China’s open government information regime and a more perceptive comparison of this peculiarly Chinese regime with the FOI regimes of other countries. They also shed new light on the operation of judicial review in China. Furthermore, they indicate the barriers that must be overcome in future reforms to achieve a genuine FOI environment and highlight the interconnectedness of any such reform measures.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License-
dc.subject.lcshFreedom of information - Law and legislation - China-
dc.subject.lcshGovernment information - Access control - China-
dc.titleAn empty promise of freedom of information? : assessing the legislative and judicial protection of the right of access of government information in China-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb5186497-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelDoctoral-
dc.description.thesisdisciplineLaw-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-
dc.identifier.doi10.5353/th_b5186497-
dc.date.hkucongregation2013-

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