Mainland police vow to open up to media

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 January, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 January, 2004, 12:00am

Departments nationwide told to issue news releases and speak to journalists

The mainland's secretive Public Security Bureau has made an unusual New Year's resolution: to hold regular press conferences.

Under a policy announced yesterday, police departments nationwide must issue regular news releases and meet journalists to 'promote transparency of police affairs'.

Public security authorities at provincial level, and the Ministry of Public Security, will hold press conferences once a month. Police at municipal level and below will hold briefings once every two weeks. Police are also expected to hold press conferences to respond to breaking news and hire media spokespersons.

All police departments have been ordered to hold at least one news conference before January 22 to mark the start of the new policy, Xinhua said, quoting Meng Hongwei, assistant to the public security minister.

Mainland police are notoriously unco-operative with the media. Police usually answer phone inquiries from reporters about incidents by saying they do not know anything and hanging up.

A China watcher in Hong Kong applauded the development but said it would take years of reform for the mainland public security system to modernise.

China analyst Johnny Lau Yui-siu said the move was one of a series of reform measures introduced during the past year aimed at holding government departments more accountable.

'They have initiated many reforms since the new leadership took office. Many State Council departments are now trying to become more open to the public,' he said.

He said other reforms included paying police officers punctually, upgrading their equipment and buying new uniforms. Examinations have also been introduced to ensure a higher standard for police officers.

The Ministry of Public Security yesterday announced the crime figures for 2003.

The country recorded 3.95 million criminal cases in the first 11 months of last year, roughly the same as the previous year.

While crimes such as murder, rape, arson attacks and the illegal use of explosives all decreased over 2002, thefts and street robberies increased 10 per cent and 6 per cent respectively.

The ministry, which launched a nationwide crackdown on crime in November, has completed investigations into more than 209,000 criminal cases, up almost 42 per cent year on year. But the spokesman warned that street robberies would increase this month with millions of workers returning to their homes for Lunar New Year.