Caixin
Sep 26, 2020 06:41 PM

Beijing Passes Rules Protecting Whistleblowers With ‘Non-Malicious’ Intent

Photo: VCG
Photo: VCG

Beijing's municipal legislature passed new regulations Friday in response to public health emergencies, in which whistleblowers, with “non-malicious intent”, would not be punished for reporting false information.

The regulation also empowered frontline medical workers, under urgent circumstances, to bypass their official reporting lines to sound the alarm within medical institutions or to disease control and prevention agencies.

The inclusion of the whistleblower protection clause with regards to public health emergencies followed calls to revise the nation's emergency response laws during the annual lawmakers gathering, the National People's Congress, in Beijing in May.

In particular, lawmakers from Hubei province, the original pandemic epicenter in China, urged the government to rapidly reform its disease warning system and grant greater protections to medical whistleblowers in a bid to plug the gaps exposed at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Under the new regulations -- passed by the Standing Committee of Beijing's People's Congress, the municipal legislature's top decision-making body -- any organization or individual has the right to report "hidden dangers" of public health emergencies to relevant government agencies through various channels including a citizens' hotline, government website and social media accounts.

The municipal government and relevant agencies should establish mechanisms to receive, investigate and verify the reported information, and protect the privacy of those sources, the regulation says.

Upon verification, the city's health authorities should reward those who report relevant information, and should not punish those whistleblowers who report false information as long as their intents were not malicious, according to the regulations. It did not elaborate on the details of what does and does not qualify as malicious intent.

The regulation also granted municipal and district governments in Beijing the power to take relevant measures to contain public health emergencies, including lockdowns and restrictions on residents' movements. Those individuals who breach isolation treatments would be criminally punished, according to the regulations.

It is not immediately clear when the new regulations will take effect.

Besides Beijing, China's southern city of Shenzhen in August also passed similar public health emergency response rules with a whistleblower protection clause, which will go into effect on Oct. 1.

Contact reporter Lu Zhenhua (zhenhualu@caixin.com) and editor Marcus Ryder (marcusryder@caixin.com)

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