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How can China raise credibility of public hearings?

By Liao Wengen (People's Daily)

15:45, October 31, 2011

Edited and translated by People's Daily Online

Beijing, Oct. 30 (PD Online)--Some experts said that although the domestic price law has made it clear that public utility prices, public welfare service prices and prices of goods supplied by natural monopoly operators, which are essential to the immediate interests of the masses and are set or guided by the government, should all come with a public hearing system.

However, the masses are not aware of why and when public hearings should be held. The price law only encourages government agencies to hold public hearings, and does not contain any mandatory provisions for holding hearings. Furthermore, although the "Measures for Public Hearings on Government-fixed Prices" issued by the National Development and Reform Commission specifies that government agencies must hold public hearings before adjusting the prices of a list of products and services, the public do not know much about the list. Experts said that government agencies should enhance publicity of the public hearing system, so more people can learn about it and be willing to participate.

Gao said that related government departments should not require the masses to cover all costs brought by inflation and cannot be hostile to opposing voices. They should improve the decision-making mechanisms, actually integrate public and social participation into the decision-making process and give all stakeholders equal opportunities to participate in the decision-making processes.

They should also use various channels, such as the Internet, forums and communities, to publicize information to enable more people to access information relating to public hearings. They should also use both the
Internet and public hearings as the platforms to solicit public opinions. They should try their best to inform the masses of all related background information before public hearings, allowing attendees of public hearings and all of society the time to research and reflect on related topics. If attendees of public hearings cannot receive comprehensive information on the public hearings into price hikes, it is not scientific for them to approve or oppose price hikes.

Mo Yuchuan, a professor at Renmin University of China, said that to better understand and implement the public hearing system, the government should first promote the public understanding of the system and develop a new awareness of the rule of law relating to public hearings, particularly deepening the public understanding of citizens rights concerning public hearings.

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