Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chinese citizens: primarily for information that involves their immediate interests

During the first six months of implementation of the FOI Regulations, Chinese citizens used FOI legislation for access to the following five main categories of government information, all closely related to their immediate interests. First, they applied for information to examine whether or not their interests had been violated. This occurred primarily in three areas: enterprise restructure, house demolition and land use. Given China’s rapid marketisation and urbanisation in the last three decades, this is hardly surprising. Second, Chinese citizens used the FOI Regulations to better understand their personal legal matters, such as pending criminal and civil cases. Third, they filed access requests to learn more about how government agencies processed their business affairs. Fourth, they asked for historical records to solve their outstanding issues with the government, such as housing takeovers before and during the Cultural Revolution. FOI legislation provided an indirect opportunity for individuals aggrieved by the enforced takeovers to seek protection for their private property. Fifth, Chinese citizens requested information on their personnel files in order to claim benefits from the government (Table 1).

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