Home / Government / Opinion Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read
Let Transparency Prevail
Adjust font size:

Chongqing Municipality's very recent move to make public the responsibilities of its mayor and vice-mayors seemed quite a sensation locally. It was even said to be the first time this had happened nationwide.

We congratulate the citizens of the southwestern city on the latest addition to their right to know, though such information is long overdue.

But the proud label for their city as a pioneer in political transparency is regrettably untrue.

Instead they are late-comers, at least one year behind the real pioneers. It only takes a click on the Internet to see the truth. Many, if not all, official websites of local governments have a special section telling you who is responsible for what in government offices.

Front-runners in the country's experiments on political transparency have gone far beyond publishing the job descriptions of local leaders.

Residents of Chongqing Municipality will find out how much more they can expect if they take a look at the website of the city of Handan, Hebei Province: www.handan.gov.cn. Many ordinary citizens' questions about the operation of the municipal apparatus will be answered there.

In the "Municipal Government Leaders" section one can see in great detail the responsibilities of the mayor and vice-mayors, along with each person's resume, email address and office phone number.

The authority of the mayor, for example, is on display in a list of 92 powers such as examination and approval of land seizures and the command of flood relief. It also includes the legal or policy basis for each of these powers.

Once an administrative decision is made by the mayor, there is a set procedure for its publication in accordance with its nature. If it is about land seizure, for example, it has to be published at the local venue for land transactions as well as in local media; if it is to do with the suspension of water supply, the information must be released in the form of a government decree and also as an online notice.

There is even a column showing whether or not the mayor's service in each aspect entails a charge, and the basis of such a charge if it does.

Like many government websites, that of the government of Handan also provides roadmaps for institutions and individual citizens who need assistance from local authorities.

For most of us who are accustomed to the veil of secrecy surrounding our government offices, what happened in Handan is something almost revolutionary.

It is almost revolutionary in the sense that it has translated the promise of openness and transparency into practical convenience in the public's interaction with government.

The most reliable defense against a misbehaving government is to place it under public scrutiny, which is impossible if our citizens remain in the dark.

We hope the experiments in Handan soon become the norm in other parts of the country, Chongqing included.

(China Daily April 26, 2006)

Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read

Related Stories
Transparency of Governance
Make Government Duties Public
E-government Spurs Efficiency Drive
Information Disclosure Required
SiteMap | About Us | RSS | Newsletter | Feedback
Copyright © China.org.cn. All Rights Reserved     E-mail: webmaster@china.org.cn Tel: 86-10-88828000 京ICP证 040089号