Wen Hongxiang, a Shenyang lawyer, submitted a request to the local government asking it to publish its administrative costs and annual audit report. But an official from the local Information Openness Office said it was "too difficult" to make administrative costs public.
"Government revenue comes from taxpayers and they are entitled to know how the government is spending their money," said Wen. "The Decree of Government Information Openness grants citizens the right to know."
If Wen's application is approved, 60 government departments will have to publish their administrative costs.
One official said that Wen's application was in line with the Decree on Government Information Openness and had been accepted and forwarded to 60 government departments.
But Wen said that although the local government had accepted his application, he had so far received no reply.
According to the Decree, government offices must respond to requests for information within 15 working days, and can request a maximum extension of 15 days. In theory, then, the Shenyang government must give Wen the information he wants within one month.
But another official from the Shenyang Municipal Government Information Openness Office said that although Wen’s application was in order, it was "too difficult" to make administrative costs public because of the "sensitivity" of government financial information.
Wen said the Decree obliges government bodies to disclose information unless it involves state secrets, individual privacy or business secrecy. He added that the Audit Law clearly rules that audit results should be made public.
But a lack of concrete rules about what information can be published means that, in practice, it remains difficult to obtain information. Local governments often refuse to disclose information with spurious excuses about the "need for secrecy".
(China.org.cn by Ma Yujia, November 18, 2008)