“There is No Open Information Here”

China Elections and Governance translates an article about Wang Qing, a resident of Nanyang City, Henan, who made it his crusade to demand that the local government the files on public expenditures:

“I wasn’t out to oppose them; I just wanted to win their support.” Eight months after the fact, Wang Qing knit his eyebrows as he explained. We were in an old-style 6-storied residence, in the same quarters as an ethanol factory that carried a smell that stung. Wang didn’t dare open his window in summertime.

In this room, he put in order all the questions he had thought about, counting them. There were 7 in all. Since directly asking these questions had no result, he simply printed each one of them out and then stuffed them in an addressed envelope.

On December 30, 2008, when his sister Wang Ke saw him walking out with a pile of letters near 60 centimeters tall, she jokingly asked him, “Whoa, so many! Are you sending out love letters?”

But just a few days ago, Wang Ke suddenly saw photos of her younger brother on the Internet. The little brother she had thought was shy and conscientious had suddenly become the famous “thorn in side” of the city. Not long after he sent his letters – all the way up to the Nanyang City government, and all the way down to Wancheng District’s vegetables office – 181 departments received the same application for information disclosure. In the application, Wang requested that the departments disclose information on 7 items, including “budgeted number of government employees, actual numbers of officials”, and even “the objectives and implementation progress of current government work.”

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