Student gains win over ministries

Updated: 2011-10-11 07:45

By Zhao Yinan (China Daily)

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BEIJING - A Tsinghua University law student has finally had some success in her quest for information about the duties of government deputy ministers.

Li Yan, a graduate student in Tsinghua University's Law School, said she will drop a case against three government agencies after the departments disclosed some of the information she needed for an academic paper she was preparing.

Li said she had reached agreement with the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Land and Resources and the Ministry of Education after receiving information on the responsibilities of their deputy ministers.

The 24-year-old student had asked for information about the responsibilities of the deputy ministers of every central department.

When this request was turned down, she filed a case at Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court in early September against the three departments.

"Although the court said my case could not be filed, they urged the departments to disclose the information and helped us reach a reconciliation," she said.

Li has received an e-mail explaining the duties of deputy ministers from the Ministry of Science and Technology, while the country's top land watchdog and the education authority released the information on their websites.

According to the Ministry of Education's website, Deputy Minister Li Weihong is "responsible for social work, language and linguistics, university students and other work", while Hao Ping, another deputy minister, is in charge of "legislation, international exchanges and other duties".

"The information they offer on the websites is very brief, mostly just one sentence. It may not be adequate for my paper, but at least the administrations have shown an open attitude," Li said.

Ying Songnian, an administrative law professor with China University of Political Science and Law, said Li's request, which was in line with the country's regulation on disclosure of government information, should have been met.

"It's good to see a young student fighting for her rights, since to establish a transparent government requires efforts by both the authorities and the public," Ying said.

A recent report on the transparency of government agencies, published by Peking University's Center for Public Participation Studies and Supports, said only eight departments of the 43 tested scored more than 60 points out of a possible 100 in a test to gauge their level of transparency. The average score was 51.

"A major reason that administrations are reluctant to disclose government information is their conservative attitudes," said Wang Jingbo, co-author of the report from China University of Political Science and Law. "They don't think information disclosure is part of their responsibilities."