More transparency urged from courts

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2012, 12:00am


Most government departments have become more transparent through disclosures online in the past three years, but the courts need to do more, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said in a report released yesterday.

It is the academy's third 'Annual Report on China's Rule of Law', studying the state of open governance on the mainland since the Open Government Information Regulation came into effect in May 2008, but the first time it has looked at the transparency of courts.

The study covered a total of 59 central government ministries, 26 provincial governments and 43 city governments.

In terms of general information, the Ministry of Commerce's website got the highest transparency score, 67 out of 100. The five criteria used to assess transparency were: whether the website has an effective index of government information; whether there is an easily accessible guide to the government's duty to disclose; whether there is a user-friendly and working platform for applying for such information; whether annual work reports are released in a timely fashion; and whether information on protection of the environment is released.

However, more than half of the 59 central government departments still scored less than 50, with the State Administration of Foreign Exchange and the ministry scoring about 20 out of 100. Local governments performed better, with 16 of the 26 provincial governments scoring above 50, a feat that was matched by 27 of the city governments.

Professor Lu Yanbin said 50 was not a pass mark, and that improvements had been seen in different areas, especially in the timeliness of releasing annual reports and the provision of information on protection of the environment. However, many government websites still contained links that did not work or only news about leaders and not enough practical information about how citizens could make better use of government services.

In comparison, transparency of the courts is in a more worrying state. In a study of 26 provincial higher courts and 43 city intermediate courts, Hainan scored the highest in terms of overall transparency at 73.5, followed by Shanghai, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Beijing.

Only 10 provinces had websites featuring working links for all their intermediate courts. Only two higher courts and six intermediate courts gave their full addresses on their websites, and only one higher court and one intermediate gave information on all their departments and the staff in charge.

While the law demands that all hearings must be open to the public unless privacy or state secrets are involved, only 76.9 per cent of higher courts and 58.1 per cent of intermediate courts put announcements about hearings open to the public online.

In terms of making judgments public, just 19.2 per cent of higher courts and 27.9 per cent of intermediate courts updated their website in a timely fashion - containing judgments made in the previous 30 days.