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Scholar questions China's public hearing process / by Zhang Lulu, October 24, 2014 Adjust font size:

A scholar specializing in administrative law raised doubts recently about China's public hearing system, which is a way of discussing public affairs before a policy or decision is made.

Yang Xiaojun is the deputy director of the Administrative Law Studies Institute of the China Law Society and a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance. His comments came before a panel discussion on subway and bus fare hikes in Beijing set to take place later this month, which has fueled some discussion that public hearings will be unlikely to stop the fare from increasing and that the panelists, or the hearing attendees, are usually recommend or pre-arranged by authorities.

Yang agrees with public opinion, saying that some authorities pre-arrange or recommend certain audience members and organizations to attend hearings so that the results will remain in their control. Though technically speaking the practice does not go against the current law, since recommendation is indeed a way of deciding who attends meetings, random choice should still be the primary means of selecting audience members.

"The fact that it does not violate any specific articles of law does not necessarily mean it is fully in line with the spirit of the law, as the primary purpose of holding public hearings is to enable the public to participate in policy-making and have a say in things that affect their own interests." Yang said.

Since some government departments are determined to raise the prices of certain public services, the "hearing is only some sort of decoration to make the decision-making seem more legitimate and democratic," Yang said.

A good public hearing system should grant people the right to oppose government proposals rather than approve it each and every time. As to the agenda of the hearing, it is not legitimate to only discuss how to raise the prices while sidestepping the more fundamental question of whether to raise the price or not, Yang said.

"Many of the current hearings fall short of the spirit of the law, which is why the public fail to trust the hearings," Yang added.

Yang suggested that public hearings in China should be more transparent and the related laws should be further clarified.

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