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China: New Implementing Regulations of Law on State Secrets

(Mar. 31, 2014) On January 17, 2014, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang signed State Council Order No. 646 promulgating the Implementing Regulations of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Guarding State Secrets. Effective on March 1, 2014, the Regulations repealed the former 1990 implementing measures for the Law. (Regulations [in Chinese] (Feb. 3, 2014), Central People’s Government of the PRC website; English translation available through Westlaw China online subscription database.)

News reports promptly commented on a provision of the Regulations that instructs officials to stop invoking the “vague and arbitrary excuse of ‘state secrets’ to avoid disclosing information that ought to be public knowledge.” (Richard Silk, China’s Secret Anti-Secrecy Act, WALL STREET JOURNAL CHINA REAL TIME REPORT (Feb. 3, 2014, 9:36 pm).) The reports refer to article 5 of the Regulations, which provides: “[s]tate organs and entities shall not determine matters that should be disclosed in accordance with law as state secrets, and shall not make public information involving state secrets.”

Background on State Secrecy and Publication of Government Information

Although the Regulations and the State Secrets Law do not specify which information ought to be made public, such provisions may be found in other laws and regulations. For example, the 2000 Law on Legislation requires all laws (made by the National People’s Congress and its Standing Committee), administrative regulations (made by the State Council), administrative rules (made by central government departments), and local government regulations and rules to be published. That Law provides specific publication procedures for each type of document. (Law on Legislation [in Chinese], XINHUA.NET (Jan. 21, 2003).)

Furthermore, in 2007, then-Premier Wen Jiabao signed State Council Order No. 492 promulgating the Regulation on the Disclosure of Government Information (Government Information Regulation), which outlines the scope of government information that ought to be made public. (Government Information Regulation [in Chinese], Central People’s Government website (Apr. 24, 2007).)

The Government Information Regulation generally requires the government to publish information involving:

  • the immediate interests of citizens, legal persons, or other organizations;
  • a situation that requires the awareness or participation of the public; or
  • the organization, functions, procedures, and other matters concerning administrative offices. (Id. art. 9; English translation available through Westlaw China online subscription database.)

All governments at or above the county level must determine the specific content of the government information to be publicized, and, according to the Government Information Regulation, should emphasize the publication of:

  • administrative regulations, rules and regulatory documents;
  • national economic and social development plans, special planning, regional planning and the relevant policies;
  • statistic information pertaining to the national economy and social development;
  • reports on budgets and final accounts;
  • items on which administrative and institutional fees are charged, the basis for those charges, and rates charged;
  • a catalog of and standards for the implementation of centralized government procurement projects;
  • administrative licensing matters, including the basis, conditions, quantity, procedures, and time limits for issuing a license; and a list of all materials required to be submitted for administrative licensing, together with the status of the application;
  • approvals and implementation status of major construction projects;
  • policies and measures for poverty alleviation, education, medical care, social security, employment promotion, etc., and the implementation thereof;
  • contingency plans for public emergencies, early warning information, and measures adopted to deal with such emergencies; and
  • information on the supervision and inspection of the condition of environmental protection, public health, work safety, food and drugs, and product quality. (Id. art. 10.)