Transparency As an Offence: Rights Lawyering for Open Government Information in China

The Journal of Comparative Law, Volume 12:2 (2017), pp 417-36

University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2018/031

20 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2018 Last revised: 10 Jul 2018

Han Zhu

Centre for Chinese Law, The University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law

Fu Hualing

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law

Date Written: December 25, 2017

Abstract

Rights lawyering has been developing in China over the past two decades or so. Chinese rights lawyers through social-legal activism have been a formidable social force in holding the state accountable to its rhetoric. This article examines three ways rights lawyers in China have used transparency as a tool to pursue legal activism and social campaigns: open government information (OGI) applications, on-line mobilization, and off-line action. The empirical material on which this article is based, in large part is drawn from a variety of data and materials, including 105 OGI requests made by lawyers between 2008 and 2015. For rights lawyers, transparency is both an end and a means to address a wide range of social-political issues. The article finds that the formal OGI institutions have created new legal opportunities and resources for rights lawyering, which has proved to be resilient in promoting government accountability and restraining the arbitrary exercise of public powers. However, the political vulnerability of legal institutions and their lack of political will and ability to accommodate the demands of civil society have given rise to extra-institutional and extra-legal mobilization in a variety of organized street actions by rights lawyers. The extra-institutional lawyering has provoked retaliation from the state, however, leading to further restrictions on lawyers’ right to know and crackdowns on rights lawyering.

Keywords: China, rights lawyers, transparency, OGI

Suggested Citation

Zhu, Han and Hualing, Fu, Transparency As an Offence: Rights Lawyering for Open Government Information in China (December 25, 2017). The Journal of Comparative Law, Volume 12:2 (2017), pp 417-36; University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2018/031. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3178449

Han Zhu (Contact Author)

Centre for Chinese Law, The University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Pokfulam HK
China

Fu Hualing

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
China

HOME PAGE: http://hub.hku.hk/rp/rp01245

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