A Beijing lawyer has launched a test of China’s new Open Government Information (OGI) Regulations (政府信息公开条例), which, according to the OGI, are intended to "ensure that citizens, legal persons and other organizations (公民、法人和其他组织) can obtain government information by lawful means, and increase government transparency," Human Rights in China has learned.
Lawyer Cheng Hai (程海) filed a request on June 24 asking the Beijing authorities to disclose the procedures and the committee members relating to the Reeducation-Through-Labor (RTL) (劳动教养) program. The request was made under the new OGI rules, which became effective on May 1, 2008.
“The outcome of this request by a concerned citizen and member of China’s legal profession will serve as a good test of how serious the authorities are about transparency and implementing the new Open Government Information Regulations,” said Human Rights in China Executive Director Sharon Hom.
Under the OGI regulations, citizens may file requests with government offices at the central and local levels to access “relevant government information in light of their special needs for production, living or scientific research.” If the government does not disclose the requested information, citizens may inform the next highest administrative level of the responsible agency, apply for administrative reconsideration, or bring an administrative lawsuit.
RTL is a system of administrative detention that offers no due process protection to individuals. The RTL system has been criticized for its vague and arbitrary scope, the disproportionate severity of sentences, and abusive conditions in RTL facilities as well as the lack of due process.
Cheng’s request was directed to the Beijing Municipal Government (北京市人民政府) and the Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) (北京市公安局). The request seeks to clarify, among other things, inconsistencies between the State Council regulations on RTL and Public Security Ministry regulations. Whereas the State Council requires that the members of RTL Decision Committees (劳动教养管理委员会) be a mix of civil affairs, public security, and labor department staff, the lower level regulations promulgated by Public Security Ministry instead state that RTL Approval Committees (劳动教养审批委员会), which are responsible for making the RTL decisions in the name of Decision Committees, be comprised of only staff members of public security agencies, with no supervision or participation by others. The request also calls on the government to publish the process of examination and approval for RTL sentences.
On June 27, Cheng was told by the Beijing Government Information Office that his request should be directed to the Public Security Bureau and not to the Beijing Municipal Government. At Cheng’s insistence, the government agreed to put the decision in writing. The Public Security Bureau has not yet responded to the request for information.
For more information about the State Secrets Law and the Open Government Initiative, see:
For more information about Reeducation-Through-Labor, see: