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Liu Ji on Government Transparency

Shanxi Fazhan Daobao, summarized in Meizhou Wenzhai, a weekly digest published by the Fujian Daily News [Fujian Ribao], 8 September 1998

Liu Ji, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, says that since the affairs of the village government are conducted in the open, Chinese farmers now enjoy far more democratic rights than urban people. Liu said that in the city as well there are encouraging trends. For example, Beijing Intermediate People's Court No. 1 announced that any citizen may listen in on any case which is being handled in open court. The citizen need only present a national identity card. Guangzhou city is conducting an open, publicized opinion poll of Guangzhou citizens on the achievements of the Municipal government which just completed its term of office.

Openness has an important bearing on society capacity to supervise public affairs. Although the law states that citizens of New China have the right to supervise public affairs, but in practice this has not been fully implemented. The absence of open and effective supervision is the underlying reason for the spread of corruption in government and in business over the past several years.

For a long time, the Chinese people have only been able to see the results of government policy but know very little about the policy process. Likewise the departments concerned with the implementation of administrative law and the judicial organs have lacked transparency. This kind of ?black box operation? have created ideal conditions for corrupt behavior.

Today, the income of a village chief is a matter of public record. Why can't the income of higher level officials be made public as well? The operations of government on the village level are open. Why can't this be true of county government and city government as well? Naturally, this can only happen in a gradual process. But opening gradually cannot become an excuse for not opening at all. In any case, there is not reason at all for the old way of just presenting sanitized information to the people. The movement towards greater and greater opening has already become a well-established trend.