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Privacy and Freedom of Information in China: Review through the Lens of Government Accountability

Review through the Lens of Government Accountability

Yongxi Chen


This article critically reviews how the Chinese legislation and courts handle the conflict between the right to privacy and freedom of information. It summarises inadequacies in the protection of privacy provided under an uncoordinated body of legislation, and highlights the gaps concerning the privacy exemption to disclosure of government information left to be filled by the courts. By analysing a representative sample of cases, it evaluates the judicial approaches to balancing privacy and public interest in transparency on several subject matters. The article finds that the courts have recognised a wider scope of privacy in the FOI context than what is usually recognised under the civil law doctrine, and have often undervalued or neglected the public interest in promoting government accountability through transparency. It argues that these approaches risk condoning the misuse of privacy to cover maladministration, and can hardly redress the weak legislative protection of privacy from government intrusion in the non-FOI context.

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Law, The University of Hong Kong. For correspondence: <>. Unless otherwise specified, the scholarly literature, case collections and judgments cited in this article are in Chinese, and the authors, titles or case names thereof are translated into English.


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