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Recent Environmental Law and Public Participation News

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified)

In the past week, Chinese news media has focused on several important public participation and environmental public interest litigation issues. The release of the China Software Testing Center’s evaluation of government website openness has generated discussion on how much work there is left to do. Meanwhile, local governments in Hainan, Hubei, and Yunnan are intensifying efforts to improve support for environmental public interest litigation and the creation of environmental courts.

Six articles after the jump.

While Government Information is now open, the right thing is still hard to find (Google translation)
Government information disclosure has made rapid strides in 2008. According to an assessment released this January by the Ministry of Industry and Information’s China Software Testing Center, the number of government websites with a public information directory increased from 90 in 2007 to 500 by the end of 2008. The amount of information is expanding rapidly throughout the country, with the most comprehensive websites offered at the provincial level. However, as the numbers from the report note, there is still a large amount of room for improvement; citizens still remain frustrated about difficult navigation or unavailable information. (Source: China Youth Daily)

Op-ed: The glass doors obstacle of open government information (Google translation)
In this Legal Daily Op-ed, Professor Ma Huaide of the China University of Politics and Law examines the progress of government information disclosure in Beijing. Ma notes that the Beijing government has taken steps to disclose information, including releasing 240,000 documents for public viewing. However, he writes, the effort is far from complete; millions of documents remain unreleased, much of the released information is useless to the public, and only 50% of the 1080 information disclosure requests filed by citizens were satisfied. While the system may give off a sense of transparency, in this article Ma explores the glass doors that present a challenge for anyone seeking information disclosure.(Source: Legal Daily)

Evaluation: over 60% of users not satisfied with openness of government websites (Google translation)
The Ministry of Industry and Information released their evaluation of open information accessibility on Chinese government portals on January 13. The Ministry of Commerce’s website ranked first for openness, while among provincial websites Beijing’s placed first. Assessments categories included public participation, information disclosure, user satisfaction, as well as security. Most notably, more than 60% of web users expressed dissatisfaction with the openness of government websites, indicating that the implementation of government e-portals for information disclosure still has a long way to go. (Information Times)

Yunnan intensifies ecological and environmental efforts, pushing for more environmental public interest litigation (Google translation)
The Yunnan Province High People’s Court convened a province-wide meeting of chief justices this week, focusing on the topic of ecological and environmental protection in the legal system. The Chief Justice of the Yunnan Provincial court urged the other justices to increase their environmental protection efforts for the local courts. In particular, the meeting emphasized two goals: promote environmental public interest litigation efforts, and improve the mechanism for public participation in environmental public interest litigation. (Source: Yunnan News Network)

Hainan maritime courts to handle environmental public interest litigation (Google translation)
In an announcement on January 18, Hainan Province revealed plans to implement legal reforms to its maritime court system. In addition to allowing the Provincial High Court to refer money-related maritime disputes to local courts depending on geographical distribution, officials also emphasized that the maritime courts would play a new role in environmental protection. In the coming year, the Haikou Martime Provincial High People’s Court plans to explore and promote public interest litigation as a legal tool to protect the environment. (Source: Hainan News Network)

Hubei Provincial CPPCC members call for the establishment of Environmental Protection Courts (Google translation)
At a CPPCC meeting in Wuhan this week, several CPPCC representatives spoke up in favor of establishing an Environmental Protection Court within Hubei Province’s legal system to aid environmental enforcement and the implementation of environmental laws. In urging Hubei Province to go forward with such a measure, supporters of the idea pointed to other cities with similar courts and cited cases in Guiyang, Jiangsu, and Wuxi that involved environmental protection courts. (Source:

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