(July 9, 2009) On June 27, 2009, the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress adopted a revised Statistics Law. The law was first enacted in 1984 and revised once, in 1996. Effective from the first day of next year, the newly revised Statistics Law is expected to crack down on falsifying statistical data by the government. (Text of the Statistics Law [in Chinese], National People's Congress website, June 27, 2009, available at http://www.npc.gov.cn/huiyi/cwh/1109/2009-06/27/content_1508517.htm.)
The Statistics Law applies only to government statistical activities (art. 2). As reported by the government official news agency, in 2008 alone, 17,300 cases of Statistics Law violations were investigated. The former Head of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Li Deshui, revealed that in 2005, the cumulative gross domestic product data submitted by local governments was 3.9% higher than the GDP growth rate published by the NBS; the difference was RMB2.66 trillion (about US$380 million). (Zhongguo Xiugai Tong Ji Fa, Yanfang Guanyuan Tongji “Zaojia” [China Revises the Statistics Law to Prevent Government Officials from “Falsifying” Statistics], XINHUANET, June 27, 2009, available at http://news.xinhuanet.com/politics/2009-06/27/content_11611066.htm.)
Highlights of the new Statistics Law are as follows:
· The Role of Government Leaders: The new law deletes the provisions of the old law on the role of the leaders of localities, government agencies, and units in “directing and supervising” statistical agencies and personnel in complying with the Statistics Law and rules. The old law allowed government leader to instruct the statistical agencies and personnel and to verify and correct data, “if the leader finds any error in data computation or in data sources”; this provision is deleted in the new law.
· Supervision and Inspection: The new law adds a new chapter (Ch. 5) on supervision and inspection to the six chapters of the old law, establishing which entities have supervision and inspection authority. Under the law, the NBS is responsible for organizing and administering the supervision and inspection of the national statistical work; the statistical agencies in the local governments at the county level and above are responsible for the inspection of statistical violations in their jurisdictions (art. 33).
· Open Statistics Information: The new law requires statistical agencies in the governments at the county level and above to publish statistics periodically (art. 23). “Except for classified information in accordance with law,” the statistics must be published in a timely manner and be open to public inquiry (art. 26).
· Legal Penalties: Government officials are held liable under the new law if they refuse to answer or answer untruthfully statistical investigation inquiries or refuse to participate in or otherwise hinder statistical surveys and investigations (art. 41). Enterprises and institutions violating the Statistics Law may be fined up to RMB200,000 (about US$28,000) (art. 41).
· Non-Government Statistics: Non-government statistics will be regulated by the State Council separately. Foreign organizations and individuals must apply for examination and approval, in accordance with the State Council regulations, in order to conduct statistical activities within the territory of the People's Republic of China (art. 49).
Implementation of the law will remain a problem. “The introduction of the new statistical law,” as Xinhua News Agency comments, “once again demonstrated the Party-State's determination to protect the authenticity of statistics. However, the value of the law lies more in the implementation. … The severity of falsifying statistics in recent years is not because of no law, but no law enforcement.” (Xinhuashe Pinglunyuan: Rang Falü Chengwei Weihu Tongji Shuju Zhenshi Xing de Youli Wuqi [Xinhua News Agency Commentator: Use the Law as Powerful Weapon in Protecting the Authenticity of Statistical Data], XINHUA, June 27, 2009, available at http://news.xinhuanet.com/politics/2009-06/27/content_11611935_1.htm.)