By David Bandurski — China’s leaders say the long-awaited national ordinance on openness of information, due to take the stage in May this year, will usher in an era of “sunshine” governance in which government affairs are marked with clarity and transparency. Don’t count your chickens. The ordinance is hardly a panacea, and there are major questions about how effectively it will be enforced. But some government leaders ARE taking transparency seriously — or making a show of it anyway.
Since the weekend the Web has buzzed in China with the news that Kunming Daily, the mouthpiece of top leaders in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, printed a list of the names of city officials, their contact numbers and their specific areas of responsibility.
[ABOVE: Screenshot of Xinhua Online coverage of official name and contact list published in Kunming Daily.]
The February 16 edition of Kunming Daily included a four-page spread with information on local government officials. An online copy of the list, which ran on the Kunming news site www.clzg.cn, was feverishly downloaded by Web users, according to a report in today’s China Youth Daily.
While postings by Web users were generally enthusiastic about the list, initial response from officials was mixed. Kunming CPPCC member Wu Tinggen (吴庭根), quoted in China Youth Daily, was supportive. “Publicizing these phone numbers not only benefits the people in directly relating their problems, it also benefits the work of monitoring lower-level offices by superiors,” Wu said.
“Doing this might make some officials really uncomfortable, but as it stands officials are too comfortable and the people are too uncomfortable, so how you see this really depends on where you’re standing.”
Another local official told the newspaper, however, that the publishing of the list could carry a lot of negatives, overwhelming government offices with “fussy phonecalls” (骚扰电话) and impacting normal operations.
Kunming’s top leader, party secretary Ying Yongsheng (应永生), told China Youth Daily that all official numbers, including his own, would be made public “so that if they need the people can reach us.”
Ying Yongshen also said the city had plans to release a special manual including eight documents on Kunming’s soft environment (policies and laws, etc.), with the goal of making it easier for ordinary people and investors to navigate.
[Posted February 18, 2008, 12:08pm HK]