Guangzhou’s environment protection bureau’s “beautiful misunderstanding”

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Every weekend, environment activist Basuo Fengyun (巴索风云) goes for a walk on the Maofeng mountain, north-east of Guangzhou. When he learned that a waste incineration plant was to be built in the vicinity, he registered for information disclosure with the Guangzhou environment protection bureau. The bureau refused to accept his request on the grounds that climbing the mountain did not prove that “the information asked to be disclosed has a clear relation with the applicant’s production actiity, living needs or scientific research needs”.  In order to prove such relation, the person requiring information disclosure has to provide “a residence permit, a lease contract, a hukou or a document proving that the applicant is the owner of a property situated in the mountain’s vicinity”

The “People’s Republic of China’s regulations on information disclosure” do not state that citizens have to prove this link in order to require information disclosure and leave a wide interpretation margin to provincial governments. The Guangdong province’s “Rules for applying for information disclosure (draft)” stipulate that relevant departments have to check if the applicant has a “special need” in the matter and can provide “related proof” to the matter, although they do not define what this “related proof” might be.

Therefore, the misunderstanding between Basuo Fengyun and the environment protection bureau is the result of unclear legislation. The government needs to clarify what the terms “related proof” and “special need” mean in order to avoid that similar situations arise again in the future and make the provincial information disclosure regulations more effective.

In Brief

This article analyzes the controversy on “information disclosure regulations” that has arised between an environmental activist and the Guangdong environmental protection bureau.
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