By Hugo de Burgh
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Extra resources for China's Environment and China's Environment Journalists: A Study
R9] 2. In the early stages, reporters’ attention was fixed on pollution and specific cases of it, whereas subsequently the variety and number of issues have increased. [R1] [The examples given have been moved to Chapter 4, ‘Illustrative Cases’, and are supplied there with a short explanation]. 3. In concrete terms, these are some of the changes that have been taking place: • Our government maintains relations with many NGOs. • The introduction of environment impact assessments; this was a media victory.
In the first, authorities at different levels are required to make available information on matters within their purview. This covers all regulations, particularly information on emergency planning, costs of public services including economic and social programmes, government budgets and decisions, urban planning, land requisitions and building demolition plans. They must also publish the results of investigations into environmental protection, public health, and food and drug safety. The second means is the ‘request function’, by which citizens are given the right to request access to information.
Because of this kind of procedure, western observers sometimes assume that there really is no concept of the rule of law (as opposed to rule by law). There have, however, been many changes over the past 20 years, and the legal system now offers much more hope for mediation, both to the Chinese and to foreigners engaged in business with China. In addition, there are pressures on the Chinese establishment which are helping to push forward further improvement (see Halper 2005). The government aims to establish the primacy of law over administration, but this is not simple in a country with a long history of government in which western concepts of the separation of administrative, legal and moral authority have had no place.