China-EU Law Journal

, Volume 3, Issue 3–4, pp 165–190 | Cite as

Addressing failures of environmental information disclosure through administrative lawsuits in China: the paradox of legal mobilization

  • Xinhong WangEmail author


In China, the new open government information legislation entered into force in 2008, which has provided the basis for the public to invoke the law to request government agencies to disclose environmental information. During this process, administrative litigation has been utilized by the public as a means to rectify their failures of obtaining environmental information through disclosure request. Treating this process as a legal mobilization, this article analyzes the complexities of access to government information from a socio-legal perspective. It aims to understand the paradox that citizens and entities actively initiate such litigation despite the fact that a successful result is not likely to be achieved through such lawsuits. In outlining the role of citizens and entities, including environmental organizations and law firms, this article argues that administrative litigation has been used as a legal strategy by both citizens and entities not only to obtain the information but also to impose pressure upon government agencies to adapt to the new open government information mechanism. Empowered by law, citizens and entities have been transposed from passive subjects to direct activists in the process, and have created changes in both the political process and the legal development of government information disclosure.


Open government information Environmental information disclosure Administrative litigation Legal mobilization China 



I am grateful for the anonymous reviewers’ insightful comments and the editors’ helpful suggestions. An earlier manuscript of this paper was presented in a seminar organized by the Finnish Graduate Program of Contemporary Asian Studies in August 2013, and the annual conference of the European China Law Studies Association on 19–20 September 2013 at Oxford University. Many thanks are extended to the participants of the seminar and the conference for their valuable comments.


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© China-EU School of Law 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for East Asian StudiesUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

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