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Home >> China
UPDATED: 21:18, April 26, 2007
Chinese lawmakers demand prompt reporting of animal epidemics
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Chinese legislators are trying to hold central government departments accountable for prompt and accurate reporting of animal disease epidemics as they debate a new draft amendment to the country's nine-year-old law on animal epidemic prevention.

"In addition to effective preventative measures, the government should also be required to release prompt information to the public regarding animal epidemics," Wang Guilan, a lawmaker from northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, said.

The draft amendment, which was tabled at the ongoing 27th session of the Standing Committee of the 10th National People's Congress, is aimed at preventing future animal epidemics and lowering their social and economic impact.

It demands a prompt and transparent reporting system, saying all government agencies, businesses and individuals must immediately report outbreaks of animal diseases to veterinary departments.

To ensure transparency, the draft also requires the State Council's veterinary department to report promptly outbreaks of animal diseases to relevant army organizations, international organizations and trade partners.

But in terms of reporting information to the public, the draft only says that the veterinary department under the State Council has the power to release information or entrust veterinary departments at the provincial level to do so.

"No other units or people should release information about animal epidemics without authorization," the draft says.

Lawmakers said these stipulations emphasize the "power" of the veterinary authorities, but ignore their obligation and legal responsibility to provide prompt and accurate information to the public.

As the world's largest producer of poultry, livestock and aquatic products, China has much to lose from outbreaks of animal diseases. It is estimated that animal diseases cost China 40 billion yuan annually.

Lawmaker Wang said the rapid expansion of China's stock-raising industry and Chinese people's increasing passion for pets had made prevention of animal diseases more difficult.

"Only when information concerning animal diseases is released to the public can transmission of animal-borne diseases be more effectively prevented and China can be stronger in the fight against animal epidemics," Wang said.

Many lawmakers also referred to a regulation newly issued by the State Council, which orders government departments to be more open in reporting information.

The decree, to be effective on May 1, 2008, says governments at various levels are required to release information which "affects the immediate interests of individuals and groups" or which "should be known by the masses", within 20 working days.

Listed as priorities by the State Council are details of how government departments plan to deal with emergencies, government spending, specific fees for public services and results of investigations into environmental protection, public health and food and drugs safety.

The Chinese authorities began to realize the importance of the timely release of official information after the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003.

Over the following year, China's top legislature revised the country's law on prevention of infectious diseases, demanding that the government provide prompt and accurate information of infectious diseases to the public.

"To protect and show respect to people's right to know, the draft amendment to the law on animal epidemic prevention should demand immediate and transparent reporting from the government," Zhang Zhijian, NPC Standing Committee member, said.

The current Animal Epidemic Prevention Law came into effect on Jan. 1, 1998.

Source: Xinhua

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