A Tsinghua student seeking transparency in Chinese ministries will first have to deal with roadblocks in the country's court system.
Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court on Wednesday told Li Yan, a law school student at Tsinghua University, that it would delay a decision whether to take up her suit against three ministries of China for withholding information regarding the vice ministers' assigned responsibilities.
Li submitted her bill of complaint on Sept. 9, and the court would have had until Wednesday to make a ruling whether to file a case according to China's Administrative Procedure Law. The court has not provided a new time table, Li said.
"They said they will have to discuss it for a few more days because three ministries of China are involved in this case," Li said.
Li studies constitutional and administrative laws at Tsinghua University in Beijing. She said she decided to take it to court after encountering barricades while looking for information of the government that would contribute to her thesis. Li said she contacted 14 ministries to inquire details of the vice ministers' assigned responsibilities.
Some of the ministries, such as the Ministry of Water Resources, were cooperative and immediately responded to her request, Li said. But to her dismay, the ministries of education, land and resources, and science and technology had been most difficult.
Li said the Ministry of Land and Resources told her she could find its vice ministers' information on its official website, but the website does not display the ministers' assigned duties.
The Ministry of Education rejected Li's request, and she said she was told which division each vice minister belonged to was internal management information and irrelevant to her needs.
The Ministry of Science and Technology gave Li the most runaround, she said. After a few rounds of back and forth where the ministry claimed Li had left incorrect contact information in her written inquiries, it asked to call Tsinghua to verify her credentials as a post-graduate student. Finally, the ministry declined to provide any detailed information, saying the vice ministers worked in coordination and their assignments would change.
"It looks like the vice ministers' specific responsibilities are classified in China, so (the ministries) are very cautious," Li said. "All I want is to know the ministers' job descriptions. If not, I need a reasonable explanation."
Li said had the court decided not to hear her suit, she would have appealed to Beijing Higher People's Court. According to the Administrative Procedure Law, a plaintiff may appeal to a people's court at a higher level if the plaintiff refuses to accept the decision.
"The only thing I can do now is to wait," Li said.