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New HRIC Report Details State Secrets System

June 12, 2007

China's states secrets system is dangerous to the health of people not only in China but also worldwide, and undermines healthy governance and rule of law. By sweeping a broad range of information under the umbrella of "state secrets," the system withholds the very information that civil society and the government need to find solutions to the challenges facing China today. This is one conclusion of a comprehensive new report released by Human Rights in China.

The 280-page report, State Secrets: China's Legal Labyrinth, examines how China's complex and opaque state secrets system sweeps a vast universe of information into the state secrets net, including: incidence of people who contract any kind of occupational illness; statistics on trafficking in women and children; information on unusual deaths in prisons, re-education through labor and juvenile detention facilities; guidelines for making contact with religious organizations overseas; statistics held by the All China Federation of Trade Unions on strikes; and data on water and solid waste pollution.

As China prepares for the Olympics and responds to domestic and foreign demands for greater media access, this is a timely opportunity to address the greater issue of the 'right to information.'
— Sharon Hom, executive director of HRIC

The report makes available an extensive compilation of laws, regulations and official documents, many in English translation for the first time, and details how China's wholesale classification of information has a powerful chilling effect on freedom of expression and the media. China's state secrets system also has significant consequences for international media, scholars and researchers, the business community and international policymakers, including those in the health and environmental arenas—all of whom rely on the free flow of accurate, transparent and reliable data and information. The SARS crisis in 2004, and the contamination of the Songhua River in 2006, which affected millions of lives in China and Russia, serve as particularly deadly examples.

Governments the world over are struggling to find a balance between individual rights and national security, but protecting national security can never be an excuse for cracking down on peaceful expression.
— Sharon Hom, executive director of HRIC

"As China prepares for the Olympics and responds to domestic and foreign demands for greater media access, this is a timely opportunity to address the greater issue of the 'right to information,'" said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China. "China's new Open Government Information initiatives reflect encouraging reform steps, but with their major exemption for state secrets, the impact of these initiatives will be limited and piece-meal. Governments the world over are struggling to find a balance between individual rights and national security, but protecting national security can never be an excuse for cracking down on peaceful expression." she said.

>> Download HRIC's report, State Secrets: China's Legal Labyrinth

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