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Citizen demands government transparency: interview

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Modern Express
August 4, 2009

Wang Qing, 27, is a computer technician in Nanyang, Henan Province. Wang became a media figure because he has submitted seven requests to 181 different government departments in Nanyang, demanding that they to publicize information as required by the law.

Wang's initial requests were mostly dismissed with indifference from these government departments, which include the municipal government and local offices in charge of fresh produce.

But Wang stepped up his effort by filing more requests, this time for administrative reconsideration. He even sued some of the government departments for failing to reply to him. Eventually, Wang received replies from the government, though some departments only stated in their replies that they refuse to release the information that Wang requested, citing there being no "legal basis" to do so.

Today's Modern Express reprinted an interview with Wang originally published on Henan Business Daily:

HBD: You don't look like a guy who wants trouble, why would you do this?
W: That's a long story. It has to do with my personal experience. A few years ago, I got into a consumer dispute, something that could have happened to any other customer. But instead of backing down, I pursued justice through the legal system. Since then, every time I have a problem, I prefer lawsuit.

HBD: How many lawsuits have you filed so far?
W: A lot. I once filed ten to twenty lawsuits consecutively in over a year. Some of them are about unfair clauses in customer services in industries such as telecommunications. Others are about aspects of society that I don't feel comfortable with. As varied as these issues are, they all concern public interests.

HBD: How did you start seeing the government as a new target?
W: I began to pay attention to the openness of information as early as in 2007. But it was what happened last June or July that eventually prompted me into action.

On my way from home to my workplace, there was a construction site for a new development. It looked weird to me, so I asked the people from the sales department whether they have a land certificate and they told me they do but refused to let me see it. So I went to the Bureau of Land and Resources, but people there refused to show me the documents either, so I took them to court. The court supported my claim. The eventual reply from the government confirmed my suspicion, they did not have the land certificate.

HBD: And you filed requests for making information public to 181 government departments, from the municipal government of Nanyang to the fresh produce office?
W: The government has been promoting the idea of harmonious society. However, if the government keep what they do from the people, so the people don't know what they should know, how can the society be harmonious? At that time, the government just released a set of rules regarding making information public, so I decided to do something in this regard.

I found all the departments in Nanyang municipal government and the two district-level governments, which totals at 181. My thinking was simple, I want to be comprehensive.

HBD: So how did you find this information about the government departments?
W: I ploughed through the materials. It took two busy weeks. Then it took another two days to mail off the requests.

HBD: What kind of information were you seeking to be publicized?
W: Mainly three areas of government spending: namely government cars bought with public funds as well as leisure travels and restaurant bills paid with public funds. The allocation of the public funds in 2007 and 2008, what they were used for and how, the reimbursement of officials, public treatment bill, on-job training, overseas travels, cars, conferences, real estate purchase, etc.

HBD: How was the response to these letters?
W: Way beyond my imagination. I sent them off on Dec 30, 2008. Starting on Jan 4, things began to get off track. Some of them asked whether I was a spy, believing I was conducting espionage. Some mistook me for a debt collector. All kind of responses.

HBD: And your response?
W: I realized the danger. I took two measures: first I contacted Xinhua news agency, asking for help from them; meanwhile, I wrote to the city party secretary and the mayor, explaining why I was doing this, telling them the pressure I was facing.

HBD: Any result?
W: No sooner than I sent off the letters, the municipal government contacted me, telling me that the leaders had received the letters, and understood my conduct, and there was no reason that I should be worried. So I started to calm down. Since then, I also found the people who were lurking around my house disappeared.

HBD: Why didn't you deliver your requests to the government departments directly and explain yourself to them in person? The misunderstandings could have been spared.
W: I tried, but they thought I was trying to make a uproar and they rudely turned me away.

HBD: Did any of them give you a timely reply?
W: According to the regulations, the government should reply within 15 days after receiving such requests. By this standard, 18 of the government departments replied in time. However, their replies didn't answer my questions at all, especially the questions about government expenditure. They either chose the topic of lesser significance to answer, or simply refused to answer by citing "no legal basis to publicize this", which really annoyed me.

HBD: What did you do then?
W: These who replied me maybe are not that bad. Worse than them are the departments which didn't give any kind of reply.

HBD: How did you deal with those who didn't reply?
W: I reported them and filed for administrative reconsideration. But the result is still unsatisfactory. So I sued over twenty of them and took them to court.

HBD: You must have got replies from them after that?
W: Yes, they did reply, no matter what their replies were, at least I got them. The last one came in early July.

HBD: What is your personal price for doing this?
W: Huge, I spent half year's income on it. My family were worried. I got no support from them.

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There are currently 5 Comments for Citizen demands government transparency: interview.

Comments on Citizen demands government transparency: interview

"HBD: You doesn't look like a guy who wants trouble, why would you do this?"

Really? This is your grammar level? You doesn't think this decreases your credibility, does you?

Typo corrected, thanks.

Any comments on recent major party leaders vanishing from 《新闻联播》? Can not find any recent news of people like Hu, Wen, Xi etc. They must be holding some kind of secretive meeting somewhere in China. Could be something like 1959 庐山会议, considering recent foreign and domestic turbulances. There may be major organizational changes in the party. We'll see.

In fact, there is little comments/reports on 《新闻联播》改版。It's senior editor even publicly denied the use of "改版" to describe the recent changes in its contents. All these may just be an in-time excuse for leaders' "disappearance".

To build a more open society, China actually needs news channels like the C-Span in the US. Not by going the reverse direction. So overall, it's quite strange...

This guy is really cool. I totally respect his vendetta. Someone like Transparency International should hire him.

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