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    Henan Court Denies Request for Info on Corrupt Officials

    A former journalist had sued a local public security bureau after it refused a freedom of information request to reveal public officials involved in bribery.
    Dec 20, 2019#corruption

    A court in the central Henan province has dismissed a lawsuit from a former journalist demanding that local authorities release the names of public officials who had offered bribes in exchange for career advancement in his hometown, financial news outlet Caixin reported Wednesday.

    The Shihe People’s Court in the city of Xinyang rejected the demand of plaintiff He Guangwei, who had sued the local public security bureau to identify those who had bribed the former police chief for promotions, according to the media report. The court said the names of the people involved in the corruption cases “aren’t government information.”

    Li Changgen, the former director of the local public security bureau, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in April 2016 for accepting bribes worth more than 6.3 million yuan ($974,000). According to the verdict, 31 people — most of them officials at various public security bureaus seeking promotions — had offered bribes to Li between 2006 and 2014.

    However, when He saw the decision in April, it didn’t disclose the names of the 31 people involved or any of their punishments. Bribing public officials is a punishable offense in China, with prison sentences depending on the severity of the crime.

    China launched a sweeping anti-corruption campaign in 2012, and President Xi Jinping has vowed to crack down on bribery and power abuses at the highest and lowest rungs of government. Since November 2012, more than 1.5 million corrupt officials have been punished, and a total of 440 centrally administrated senior officials have been investigated.

    He told Sixth Tone on Thursday that the lawsuit could raise public awareness of the right to request government information.

    “Only when administrative agencies are open and transparent can the public better monitor and supervise them,” he said. “The Regulations on Open Government Information are the public’s most useful law, but many people still don’t know about it or how to use it.”

    Under China’s Regulations on Open Government Information — the country’s Freedom of Information Act, which came into effect May 2008 — citizens have the right to request access to government information that is in the public’s interest. The regulations were amended in April to broaden their scope and better ensure citizens’ rights to supervise administrative agencies.

    The former journalist said he had noticed that more than 10 officials who had previously offered bribes had retained their jobs in local public security bureaus, Caixin reported. He then filed a request to Xinyang’s local public security bureau to release the list identifying the officials, details on the disciplinary actions taken against them, and the reason they were still working in the bureau.

    However, the public security bureau declined his application.

    A retired cadre in the local public security bureau told domestic media outlet Shangyou News in October that none of the officials involved in the bribery scandal faced criminal charges. He added that there needed to be “stability” in the local public security unit.

    “If everything is dealt with, it will cause an earthquake,” the former cadre said. “If the investigation goes on to check if those who bought jobs from Li Changgen had also sold jobs to others, it would even be more terrible.”

    Fang Ligong, an official with the local traffic police in Xinyang who had bribed Li with 110,000 yuan, told The Beijing News in November he had received warnings and demotions when Li was caught. He described it as “heavy punishment at the time.”

    He, the former journalist, told Caixin he received the verdict Wednesday and plans to appeal to a higher court.

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: VCG)