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  • 28 April 2016

    China’s FOIA Turns Eight

    By Jamie P. Horsley The author is a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, affiliated with the Kissinger Institute for China and the U.S., on leave from the Yale Law School Paul Tsai China Center. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author. May 1 marks the eighth […]

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  • 23 December 2015

    RTI in China: The Article 19 Report

    The following chapter is from the Article 19 report on the right to Information in Southeast Asia. Constitutional Framework China’s Constitution does not expressly mention the right to information but grants Chinese citizens freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration. Right to Information Act The path towards […]

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Chronology of Open Government Information (OGI) in China

(Prepared by contributor Jamie Horsley, Deputy Director of the China Law Center, Yale University, Senior Research Scholar and Lecturer in Law, Yale Law School)

March 1988 The Second Plenum of the 13th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China called for openness of work systems as an important component of honest government, and approves experiments in open government affairs

September 1997 General Secretary and President Jiang Zemin calls for “open government affairs” in his report to the 15th National Communist Party Congress

November 1998 The Organic Law of the People’s Republic of China on Villagers Committees” institutionalizes village-level self-governance and the “open village affairs” system, especially for fiscal transparency

December 2000 “Notice of the General Offices of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council on Comprehensive Implementation of an Open Government Affairs System in Organs of Political Power at the Town and Township Level Throughout the Country” called for promoting “open government affairs” at the town and township level, and for implementation of “open government affairs” at the county (city) level and above

December 2001 China joins the World Trade Organization and signs on to certain international transparency commitments

November 2002 Guangzhou City in Guangdong Province adopts China’s first local OGI Provisions, effective January 1, 2003, which established a clear presumption of disclosure and for the first time in Chinese history require government organs to proactively disseminate government information and gives “natural persons” the right to request information from the Guangzhou government

January 2003 Shanghai Municipality adopts China’s first provincial-level OGI Provisions, effective May 1, 2004, establishing a comprehensive structure for implementing and reporting on the OGI system

March 2004 China’s State Council issues the “Outline on Implementing the Comprehensive Promotion of Administration in Accordance with the Law,” which sets administrative transparency and promoting OGI as nationwide governmental objectives

March 24, 2005 The “Opinions of the General Offices of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council on Further Promoting Open Government Affairs” articulated Party and central government policy to encourage greater administrative transparency and called for formulating national OGI Regulations

January 2007 China’s State Council adopts the Regulations of the People’s Republic of China,” nationwide administrative measures that were published April 2007 and called for institutionalizing information disclosure systems throughout the government at all levels down to the town and township

August 4, 2007 The “Notice of the General Office of the State Council on Preparing Well for Implementing the Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on Open Government Information” set timelines for government organs to prepare required catalogues of and guides to requesting government information

April 29, 2008 The “Opinions of the General Office of the State Council on Various Issues of Implementing the Open Government Information Regulations of the People’s Republic of China” provided some useful guidance including that classified information can be redacted to permit disclosure of at least portions of the record, but also specified that, if requested information does not relate to the requester’s “special needs” as mentioned in Article 13 of the OGI Regulations, the government organ may decline to release the information.

May 1, 2008 The OGI Regulations take effect on International Labor Day holiday

May 5, 2008 First lawsuit under the OGI Regulations is filed by five retired workers in Rucheng County, Hunan province, seeking to make public an investigative report contracted by the county government concerning the reorganization of the workers’ former government-owned employer

May 12, 2008 Chinese government handles reporting on and response to massive earthquake in Wenchuan, Sichuan province with unprecedented initial transparency linked to advent of the OGI Regulations

October 7, 2008 First reported court decision finding in favor of a plaintiff requester, who sued the Huangzhou District Transportation Bureau in Huangqu City, Hubei province, over its failure to respond to a request for information concerning motorcycle regulations

January 12, 2010 The “Opinions of the General Office of the State Council on Improving the Work of Disclosing Government Information Upon Request” clarify the scope of “government information” and restrictions on the right to request information, and calls for more government efforts proactively to disseminate information

March, 2010 China’s central and local governments issue budgets with greater levels of detail.

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News Archive

  • 10 March 2015

    Chinese Court Describes Judicial Transparency Efforts

    China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC) published a white paper March 10 lauding improvements on judicial transparency, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua. “This is the first time the top court has reviewed the measures and effects of judicial reform on boosting transparency in the form of a white paper,” said SPC spokesman Sun Jungong […]

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  • 1 January 2015

    China Issues Regulations on Contract Transparency

    China’s cabinet on Dec. 31 announced new regulations on the transparency of government contracts, according to the official media, Xinhua. Procurement contracts should b published in the media, the announcement said. Information concerning the bidding results and transactions will be made public, too. Punishment for illegal practices will be made more severe, according to the […]

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  • 4 November 2014

    China’s Leaders Endorse Disclosure as the `Norm’

    By Jamie P. Horsley The author is Executive Director, The China Law Center and Senior Research Scholar, Yale Law School In an important policy decision adopted at the conclusion of a four-day plenary meeting of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee from October 20-23, the Party endorsed disclosure as the norm, with non-disclosure as the […]

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  • 4 September 2014

    China Announces Plans For Local Budget Transparency

    China’s State Council Sept. 3 announced plans to improve budget transparency, according to a statement described in a Global Times report and a Dow Jones article. The publication of complete budgets should also be done at the local level, said the State Council, The Dow Jones account said the plan is to eliminate off-budget expenditures, […]

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  • 4 April 2014

    China Deepens Its Disclosure Regime

    By Jamie P. Horsley Horsley teaches at the Yale Law School China Law Center. Even as the Chinese Government continues to restrict freedom of expression and freedom of the press, it is gradually expanding the scope and depth of Chinese citizens’ access to government-held information in potentially significant ways. On March 17, 2014 China’s State Council […]

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  • 28 February 2014

    Study Rates Chinese Government Websites

    The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) on Feb. 24 issued a report evaluating government agencies on information transparency. The National Railway Administration ranked last, according to the blue book report, with a score of zero out of 100, according to a Global Times article. Number on in the index was the Ministry of Education, […]

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  • 6 February 2014

    China Issues Regulations Implementing Secrecy Law

    Long-awaited implementing regulations under China’s State Secrecy Law have been published. The Chinese media characterized them as a measure to boost government transparency, but critics questioned them. The regulations (in Chinese) impose conditions for classification and set deadlines for de-classifications. There appears to be no system for citizens to challenge classification decisions and withholding of information on […]

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  • 24 July 2013

    Most Chinese Cities Rank Low on Fiscal Transparency

    A university study has concluded that most Chinese cities have weak fiscal transparency, according to an article in China Daily. Eighty-four percent of the cities, or 243, scored below 100 on a 243 point scale, according to the study by the School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University. It included four parts, with […]

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  • 8 February 2013

    Roadmap Developed During Conference in China on Government Transparency

    (The following report is from the Carter Center.) Peking University Law School and the Carter Center jointly hosted a conference on December 12-13, 2012, entitled “Government Transparency and Innovations: Achievements, Challenges, and the Way Forward,” in order to consolidate knowledge about China’s achievements and progress in this area, and to consider next steps in overcoming […]

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  • 14 December 2012

    Fewer Information Requests Made in China, Report Says

    The number of citizen requests for information in China has dropped because of impediments facing requesters, according to a new Peking University report. The government is releasing more information, according to the report, but key information about the budget, spending and collection of administrative fees is still missing. The report is described in a Dec. […]

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  • 8 October 2012

    Chinese Ministries More Transparent, Study Says

    Chinese ministries are increasingly transparent, according to a new report by the Center for Public Participation Studies and Supports at Peking University. The 42 central government departments studied scored an average 60.4 points out of 100, up from 51.2 points in 2010 and 46.1 points in 2009. Only four departments saw their scores drop. “The […]

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  • 30 July 2012

    China Continues Disclosures on Government Spending

    In a new round of disclosures, the Chinese central government July 18 revealed spending on receptions, vehicles and overseas trips by officials,  and China’s Cabinet has issued regulations to mandate such disclosures by state and local governments. The latest disclosures were the second time that 98 central government departments and public institutions have publicized spending […]

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  • 15 June 2012

    Chinese Cities Lack Fiscal Transparency, Study Shows

    Most Chinese cities lack fiscal transparency, according to a survey conducted by Tsinghua University and described in a Xinhua article. Only seven of the 81 city governments met the basic requirements on fiscal transparency, according to the survey released June 12.  Xinhua reported: The survey examined the 2010 fiscal disclosures of four municipalities as well […]

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  • 18 May 2012

    China Calls for Transparency in Variety of Areas

    China has issued a document “calling for greater transparency regarding governmental information disclosures to the public,” according to a report by the Xinhua news agency.  The short description indicates that more transparency should be put in place for the budget, affordable housing, food safety, environmental protection, land requisitions and housing demolition. “Central and provincial government […]

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  • 14 May 2012

    Chinese Budget Disclosures Still Considered Inadequate

    China is disclosing more information about its budget, but “the data being released is still too vague to satisfy the taxpayers’ demands,” according to a May 14 article in the China Daily by  Zhao Yinan. “So far, 92 out of the government 98 departments and State-funded organizations have laid bare their accounts since April 23 […]

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  • 14 October 2011

    Chinese Agencies Rank Poorly in Annual Transparency Study

    Thirty-five out of China’s 43 federal departments get failing grades on transparency, according to the 2010 China Administrative Transparency Report by the OGI Watch Alliance Project. “The institution that did the worst was the Ministry of Supervision, the very ministry responsible for making sure officials release information in accordance with the law,” according to an […]

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  • 17 August 2011

    China to Allow Appeals Over Failure to Provide Information

    Chinese citizens will be able to sue the central government and local governments if their requests for information are denied according to a judicial explanation (in Chinese) from China’s Supreme People’s Court, according to a report from China’s official news agency, Xinhua. The explanation, which was issued on Aug. 13, “confirmed that citizens may file lawsuits […]

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  • 4 August 2011

    China Restates Openness Policy in New Guidance

    The Chinese government Aug. 2 urged government officials to be more open, a development greeted both with hope and cynicism. The new statement does not create any new legal requirements for transparency but was viewed by some as a significant restatement in support of proactive openness. Others were less sanguine and noted the policy’s appearance […]

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  • 29 July 2011

    Chinese Agencies Disclose Spending on Travel

    Chinese government departments have largely complied with a requirement to disclose how much was spent on overseas trips, receptions and vehicles in 2010, according to reports in the Chinese state and commercial media. Despite a deadline of June 30 to comply with a Cabinet order, by July 7 only three out of the 98 central […]

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  • 24 May 2011

    Papers Probe Drivers of Transparency in China

    Emerging transparency in China and what explains it was the topic of two papers presented at The First Global Conference on Transparency Research held May 19-20 at Rutgers University-Newark, N.J. (See overall report in In “the first empirical study uncovering the drivers of fiscal transparency in China,” Liang Ma and Jiannan Wu of Xi’an Jiaotong […]

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  • 17 December 2010

    Report Examines Access to Chinese Environmental Data

    China has improved access to some environmental information, but much data on pollution and on the activities is still hard to obtain, according to a new report. ARTICLE 19 and the Centre for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV) at the China University of Political Science and Law launched a new report Dec. 16 entitled […]

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  • 8 October 2010

    Report Scores Openness of Chinese Cities, Provinces

    A detailed new report is critical of the openness of  Chinese cities and provincial governments, although the principal author says improvement is evident since last year. “More than half of China’s city and provincial governments surveyed have failed open-information requirements, while only two out of 43 organs under China’s cabinet managed to pass marginally, a report […]

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  • 17 September 2010

    FOI Notes: Chinese Cities; FOI for the Media?, Grants

    FOI Request for Rupert Murdoch? British Member of Parliament Dennis MacShane on Sept. 7 suggested that the UK FOIA should be extended to cover not just public authorities but also private media organizations and  bodies which receive state funding, according to the International Forum for Responsible Media blog. China: Economics and Transparency   Three political science professors […]

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  • 29 July 2010

    China Agrees to Release IMF Article IV Report

    China has permitted disclosure of the so-called Article IV “staff report” prepared by the International Monetary Fund. Last year, China declined to allow release  of the 2009 staff report,  This was a change, because China had permitted release of the 2006 report. Article IV reviews are usually conducted every year and the comprehensive staff reports summarize the economic conditions […]

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  • 16 July 2010

    New Regulation Requires More Disclosures by Chinese Officials

    Top Chinese officials will be required to disclose more about their assets under a regulation that became effective July 11, according to Chinese media, but critics say the rules contain loopholes. “The regulation adds six more items to the list of declarable assets issued in 2006, bringing the total to 14,” reported the official Xinhua […]

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  • 23 April 2010

    Update on China’s Open Government Information Regulations: Surprising Public Demand Yielding Some Positive Results

    By Jamie P. Horsley The China Law Center, Yale Law School It has been nearly two years since China’s first access to information statute took effect on May 1, 2008. Reviews of how the national Regulations on Open Government Information (Regulations) have been working are often critical or skeptical, with titles like “China’s Transparency is […]

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  • 9 January 2010

    IMF Barely Modifies Disclosure Policy

    After an opaque review process, the International Monetary Fund January 8 announced modest changes to its disclosure policy, but retained the major impediment to disclosure, allowing governments to prevent release of documents pertaining to their countries. This power prevents the release of more than 10 percent of some of the most important documents about countries. […]

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  • 16 November 2009

    In Shanghai, President Obama Recognizes Access to Information as Universal Right

    by Yvette M. Chin Shanghai, China — On his first trip to Asia, President Obama made unequivocal statements about access to information as a universal human right at a rare town-hall style meeting of university students November 16. Over 2 years ago, the Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on Open Government Information (OGI Regulations) […]

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  • 12 October 2009

    US Treasury Secretary Urges More Transparency at IMF, Advocates Release of All Article IV Reports

    US Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, speaking October 4 in Istanbul at the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) meeting, called for more transparency at the International Monetary Fund. Geithner said, “Moreover, greater transparency is critical to underpin the credibility and effectiveness of IMF surveillance. Since the crisis has taught us that no nation is […]

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  • 28 September 2008

    International Right to Know Day 2008: Global Phenomenon Now Includes More Than 80 Countries

    Washington, D.C., September 28, 2008 – Today’s celebration of International Right-to-Know Day marks a new watershed in the global reach of freedom of information laws – now on the books in more than 80 countries – and features celebrations in countries ranging from Mexico to Moldova, according to postings today on the virtual network […]

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  • 9 May 2007

    China Adopts First Nationwide Open Government Information Regulations

    By Jamie P. Horsley The Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on Open Government Information (OGI Regulations) published on April 24, 2007, and effective one year later on May 1, 2008, mark a turning point away from the deeply ingrained culture of government secrecy toward making Chinese government operations and information more transparent. (Note […]

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  • 28 September 2005

    International Right to Know Day 2005

    Since 2002, freedom of information advocates around the world have been working together to promote the right of access to information for all people and recognize the benefits of transparent and accountable governments. We use this day as a way to share ideas, strategies and success stories about the development of freedom of information laws […]

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  • 20 April 2004

    Shanghai Advances the Cause of Open Government Information in China

    While the Chinese State Council mulls over a draft of China’s first freedom of information legislation, the bustling metropolis of Shanghai, home to some 16 million people, adopted China’s first provincial-level open information legislation on January 20, 2004. The Provisions of Shanghai Municipality on Open Government Information (the Shanghai Provisions) represent the most comprehensive framework […]

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  • 11 October 2003

    “The Right to Know is Gaining around the World”

    by Thomas Blanton The International Herald Tribune, October 11, 2003, p. 6 Last month (September 23, 2003), Armenia became the 51st country in the world to guarantee its citizens the right to know what their government is up to. Armenia’s new freedom of information law is the latest outpost of the worldwide movement towards opening […]

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  • 14 July 2003

    China’s Pioneering Foray Into Open Government: A Tale of Two Cities

    By Jamie P. Horsley Guangzhou Municipal Provisions on Open Government Information (Decree No. 8 of the Guangzhou Municipal People’s Government dated November 6, 2002) (PDF – 158 KB) China’s initial reticence in sharing information about the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic highlighted anew the culture of secrecy that has for centuries shrouded the Chinese […]

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  • 1 June 2002

    World Bank Begins Pilot Programs on Disclosure

    Some 20 countries are about to embark on pilot programs with the World Bank in which they will disclose and disseminate more information than they have in the past – that is, more than what Bank policy currently requires. The exact dimensions of this effort will become clearer once the Bank makes an official announcement […]

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LEGAL DOCUMENTS Regulations on Open Government Information, April 5, 2007, effective May 1, 2008 (Chinese) (English)   Decision on Certain Major Issues by Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee (2014) (Chinese original) (unofficial English translation)   Implementing Regulations under China's State Secrecy Law (2014) (Chinese)   Opinions of the General Office of the State Council on Improving the Work of Disclosing Government Information Upon Request (English) (2010)   Supreme Court Provisions Concerning Hearings of Administrative Cases Related to Government Information Disclosure (Chinese and English) (2010)   Opinions of the General Office of the State Council on Various Issues of Implementing the Open Government Information Regulations of the People’s Republic of China (English) (2008)   Measures on Open Environmental Information (for Trial Implementation) (English) (2008)   REPORTS English translation of the summary of Professor Wang Xixin’s China’s Administrative Transparency Report for 2009   University College of London background paper (2010)   ORGANIZATIONS General: Center for Public Participation Studies and Supports ?????, Peking University Law School (Chinese)   China Transparency ????   The China Law Center, Yale University   Environmental ??: Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs ?????????   Natural Resources Defense Council ????????   Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims  
Contributors Jamie Horsley Deputy Director of the China Law Center, Yale University Senior Research Scholar and Lecturer in Law, Yale Law School Li Yuanyaun Deputy Director of Center for Public Participation Studies and Supports



Measuring Openness

Global Right to Information Rating
A country-by-country rating of laws by the Centre for Democracy and Law and Access Info.

Freedom House
The Freedom in the World report.

World Bank
Worldwide Governance Indicators

Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index
Measures perceptions of the degree of corruption.

Reporters Without Borders
The Press Freedom Index.