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Official: Regs to Balance Public Right to Know Against State Secrets
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A regulation on the release of government information will promote government transparency and the public right to know while allowing the state to protect secrets, according to an official in charge of the government's transparency department.

Government transparency must strike a balance between keeping state secrets and making government affairs public, and also safeguard the public's right to know, said Qin Hai, head of the national informatization office planning group.

China was in the process of building an effective system to ensure government affairs are open to public scrutiny, Qin said.

The regulation, being drafted by the State Council, is viewed as a move by the government to improve efficiency and prevent abuses of power.

The regulation will protect personal information.

Personal information contained in government databases would remain confidential unless the public interest was paramount and the person's consent is obtained, or in other emergencies, said Qin.

He called for quick legal processing of the regulation and a revision of the Law on Guarding State Secrets.

State secrets defined by the Law on Guarding State Secrets include classified information concerning major policy decisions on state affairs, national defense and the activities of the armed forces, diplomatic activities, national economic and social development, and science and technology, state security activities and the investigation of criminal offences, and other matters that are classified as state secrets by the state secret protection department.

When commercial secrets in government databases are to be released, governments should solicit advice from a third party, according to the regulation. If the third party opposes publication and the government insists, the government must state its reasons.

(Xinhua News Agency December 12, 2006)

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