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译:Access still barred

来源: 时间:2011/5/19 8:54:00 点击:

Three years after China passed green transparency legislation, getting hold of actual data remains a tough task, writes Meng Si.


 

Three years have passed since China introduced legislation confirming the public’s right to access environmental information. But both experts and members of the public who have requested the disclosure of pollution data – from both government and business – have found that the vague terms in which the regulations are couched are impeding their implementation.  

“Although the regulations list 19 types of information that should be disclosed and only one short clause on exemptions, that one short clause has become a catch-all,” explained Wang Canfa, director of the Center for Legal Assistance to Victims of Pollution, speaking at a seminar on April 27 to mark the law’s three year anniversary. In many other countries, he said, exceptions are specifically listed and everything else must be disclosed, a system he believes China should also adopt.

Regulations on the disclosure of government information and a trial method for the disclosure of environmental information were officially implemented three years ago. The April seminar, organised by Chinese NGO Friends of Nature, brought together experts and environmental activists to examine how those regulations are being put into practice.

The eighth article of the regulations on disclosure of government information rules that any data that threatens national security, public security, economic security or social stability must not be disclosed. According to Wang, those exceptions are commonly used by officials to block disclosure and this one clause alone has greatly reduced the level of information released to the public.

In addition, said Wang, the boundary between state secrets and commercial secrets is fuzzy. He said that many firms go so far as to class the details of their pollution-treatment equipment and release of pollutants as commercial secrets – claiming that those requesting this information could use it to identify the raw materials and technologies being used.

Yong Rong, government and public affairs officer at Greenpeace, said that in 2009 his organisation asked Zhuzhou Environmental Protection Bureau to release the pollution record of two companies. Two months later, a reply came: as listed companies, both firms were sensitive to the release of information. In addition, there was no electronic version of the 200 items of information requested, and therefore no way to publish the data online.

Chen Liwen of Green Beagle, another Chinese environmental NGO, requested information on a garbage-incineration facility in Jiangsu province, eastern China, from the local authority – Hai’an county – and the Nantong Environmental Protection Bureau. Despite going in person to make her request, the data Chen received was useless. Her full request was refused due to commercial confidentiality and the fact that her organisation had no connection to the facility.

“When compared with government, businesses are doing pitifully on environmental disclosure,” said Hu Jing of the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL). “Even disclosure by large firms is extremely limited.”

CUPL’s Environment and Resources Law Institute and UK-based campaign group Article 19 carried out an investigation into data-disclosure levels, making a series of requests to governments and businesses. Of five large companies approached in and around Beijing – Shougang Steel, Beijing Eastern Chemicals, China Huaneng, China National Petroleum Corporation and Beijing Hyundai – disclosed information on the release of pollutants or on voluntary agreements with environmental authorities to improve their environmental performance. In some cases, no reason was provided for refusing the request.

In 2008, pollution from the Gaoantun incinerator in Beijing led locals to take to the streets in protest, forcing the government to publicly apologise and promise to invest a further 90 million yuan (US$13.9 million) in improving the facility. Local resident Zhao Lei asked the government for information on how that money had been spent – and much later received a reply admitting there was a pollution problem, promising to improve the situation and thanking her for her concern, but saying nothing about the 90 million yuan.

In 2009, Beijing resident Yang Zi asked the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau for data from tests at a medical-waste incineration site, and the explanation for granting the site its temporary license – only to be told that the government was supervising the site but did not have any information.

During CUPL and Article 19’s investigation, reasons offered by environmental authorities for refusing data requests included the information being “inconvenient to provide” and “not suitable for disclosure, as it could cause media speculation”.

Wang Canfa believes that the people who actually handle the data requests in the environmental protection bureaus have to consult their superiors in each case – and this is why the requests are often blocked.

Xia Jun, a lawyer at the Beijing Zhongzi Legal Practice, described the last three years as “one step forward, two steps back”. Wang explained that, in 2010, the State Council ruled that requests could be refused if the information was irrelevant to the applicant’s work, life, research or other particular needs, and that each request could only ask for one piece of information, greatly limiting the scope of information the public can demand.

According to CUPL and Article 19’s report, of 11 types of information tested, the easiest to obtain was general information such as planning for local environmental protection and environmental quality. Types of dangerous waste and how it was handled, amounts of waste released and lists of companies breaching local limits were hardest to come by.

Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, has argued that a lack of motivation and poor enforcement are the primary reasons environmental problems remain unresolved. Public participation is needed to make up for those failings – but obtaining environmental information is a precondition for that public participation. In 2009, Yang Chaofei, head of the department of policies, laws and regulations at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said that “local environmental protection bureaus should support pollution lawsuits brought by the public and provide them with pollution-monitoring data.”

China’s disclosure failings are not solely caused by poor legislation, said Wang Canfa. The deeper problem is that institutional reform and social development are not yet sufficiently advanced. But there is hope: he used the example of Shanghai resident Xu Taisheng to encourage people to be more determined in pursuing information. Xu spent three years applying for the environmental impact assessment for a Baogang Steel project to be made public, receiving 13 judgements in the process. He applied, reapplied, sued, appealed, appealed again, appealed again, petitioned and then finally appealed to the Supreme People’s Court. In the end, he got the information he wanted – and financial compensation.

According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s working report, in 2010, 226 applications for disclosure of information were received – an increase of more than 200% on the previous year.

(译文如有出入请联系本会,来源于chinadialogue)

译   文:

环境信息公开,有法难执行 

  中国实施环境信息公开已有三年,然而孟斯发现,要获得真实的环境信息仍面临重重阻碍。

  中国实施环境信息公开已有三年,但参与过申请信息的民间人士和学者认为,法规中的模糊条款仍严重阻碍着信息公开执行。
  “虽然中国规定公开的信息一下列了19项,豁免的信息就用一句话规定,但它却成了一个口袋,什么都可以往里装。”污染受害者法律帮助中心主任、中国政法大学教授王灿发在4月27日“环境信息公开三周年研讨会”上说。他说相比之下,国外法律则是把例外的规定出来,要求没有列入例外的都应该公开。
  《政府信息公开条例》和《环境信息公开办法(试行)》正式实施已有三年,此次自然之友在北京举办研讨会,聚集了专家学者和民间环保人士,探讨其执行情况。
  《中华人民共和国政府信息公开条例》第八条规定,行政机关公开政府信息,不得危及国家安全、公共安全、经济安全和社会稳定。王灿发将之称为“三个安全、一个稳定”。他说,这些已经成为被相关政府人员惯用的搪塞理由,仅这一条,就使公开程度大打折扣。
  王灿发认为,法律应该具体列哪些属于危及“三个安全、一个稳定”的信息。
  王灿发还提出,法律对国家秘密和商业秘密的界定模糊。“国家秘密在《保密法》里还有一些规定,而商业秘密则没有任何相关规定。”他说,很多企业甚至把其治理污染物的设施和排放污染物的情况称为商业秘密,理由是担心申请者通过排放物推测生产原料,从而暴露技术。
  环保组织绿色和平政府与公共事务主任雍容介绍,2009年绿色和平向株洲环保局申请当地两家公司排污信息。历经两个月,得到答复为这两家企业都是上市公司,对信息公开很敏感,并且已有信息有200多页,没有电子版,无法在网上公布。
  达尔问自然求知社陈丽雯向海安县和南通市环保局,申请海安垃圾焚烧厂相关信息。在亲自登门询问下,最终得到的信息对她仍没什么用。她也因涉及企业秘密和自身组织与海安垃圾焚烧厂不相关而被拒。
  中国政法大学教授胡静对企业公开状况也表示担忧:“相对于政府的环境信息公开,企业的状况非常可怜,即便是大型企业,公开的环境信息仍非常有限。”
在中国政法大学环境资源研究中心和英国组织ARTICLE 19共同完成的一份中国环境信息公开测试中,北京周边包括首钢总公司、北京东方化工厂、中国华能集团公司、中国石油天然气集团公司和北京现代汽车有限公司的五家大型企业,没有一家愿意公开有关排放污染物的信息,和与环保部门签订的改善环境行为自愿协议的信息。
另一些申请者甚至得不到被拒绝的理由。
  2008年北京高安屯垃圾填埋场曾因污染环境,引起附近居民集体游行,迫使政府公开抱歉,并承诺追加9000万投资。家住高安屯附近的赵蕾,向市政管委申请公开此笔资金的使用信息,很久后得到的答复却仅是承认污染事实、保证努力改进,谢谢关注,只字未提9000万用于何处。
  北京市民扬子2009年向北京市环保局申请北京市医疗垃圾焚烧场处理检测数据和颁发临时许可证的依据,却被告知政府在监管,但信息没有。
  此外,前述中国环境信息公开测试显示,“不便提供”、“不易公开,容易引起媒体炒作”等都是环保部门的拒绝理由。
  王灿发认为,在各级环保部门中,具体的办事人员接到信息公开的申请,都需要请示领导,常常因此受到阻挠。
  北京中咨律师事务所律师夏军对过去三年环境信息公开的评价是“进一步,退两步”。对此王灿发解释,国务院办公厅2010年《关于做好政府信息与申请公开的意见》规定,行政机关对申请人申请公开与本人生产、生活、科研、特殊需要无关的信息可以不予提供,还明确了“一事一申请”原则,即一个政府信息公开申请只对应一个政府信息项目。这些对公民申请信息公开形成了很大限制。
  前述中国环境信息公开测试总结报告中称,在调查的11种信息中,最容易获得的是地方环境保护规划和环境质量状况等笼统信息,而危险废物的种类和处置情况、废物排放量和污染物超过地方排放总量控制指标的企业名单,是最难获取的信息。
  公众与环境研究中心主任马军认为,污染问题多年得不到解决的主要原因是缺乏动力,执法不严。因此需要广泛的公众参与补上管理动力的不足。而获知信息是公众参与的前提。2009年,时任环保部法规司司长的杨朝飞也曾提出:“基层环保部门应当支持老百姓的污染诉讼,给他们提供一些污染监测数据。”
  王灿发说,信息公开问题不仅是立法问题,其深层原因是体制改革、社会发展还没有走到那一步。他用上海市民许太生的案例鼓励申请者发扬“坚忍不拔的精神”:许太生申请宝钢建设项目环境评价报告历时3年,收到13份决定书和裁定书,经历了申请、复议、起诉、上诉、再上诉、申诉、信访、再申诉到最高法院的过程,最终得到了所申请的信息以及相应的经济补偿。
  据环保部工作报告,2010年,环境保护部共收到政府信息公开申请226件,数量同比增长205%。

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