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Natural disaster toll no longer state secret
Updated: 2005-09-12 15:31

China no longer regards the death toll in natural disasters and relevant materials as state secrets, reversing a practice that has lasted for years, a government spokesman said Monday.

"Declassification of these figures and materials will facilitate our disaster relief work and also ensure the people's right to know," said Shen Yongshe, spokesman of the National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets.

He said at a press conference that the administration and the Ministry of Civil Affairs have jointly issued a document on declassifying such figures and materials both at national and provincial levels from August 2005.

"Previous stipulations that classify related information as confidential are abolished accordingly," he said.

Shen said that the old practice was adopted in line with the historical conditions the country faced in the past. As China continues to deepen reform and improve its disaster relief work, keeping the death toll as state secret conforms to neither the need to develop the country's disaster relief work nor the practice widely adopted by the international community.

"Declassification of such information is conducive to boosting our disaster prevention and relief work," he said.

The decision marks a major step taken by the government toward "administering according to law" and "building a transparent government," he added.

Zou Ming, a senior official of the ministry, said the Chinese government always attaches importance to the disaster relief work and the Ministry of Civil Affairs has done a lot in releasing information about natural disasters.

In fact, he said, the ministry has begun to make public the death toll of major natural disasters and the annual total over the past few years.

"It helps raise the social concern over and public awareness of natural disasters, and facilitate international exchanges and cooperation in this field," Zou said.

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