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China Strengthens Disaster Management Laws, Amid Increasing Weather Events

Legal revisions aim to enhance emergency preparedness and government control over media reporting

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Pavitra Shetty

Published on July 2, 2024, 17:26:29

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China, extreme weather, disaster, disaster management

China has strengthened its laws governing disaster management, imposing stricter penalties for inadequate responses and intensifying government oversight of media coverage during emergencies.

The legal revisions aim to bolster emergency preparedness and streamline the dissemination of information concerning natural disasters, accidents, and public health crises.

They also expand the scope of government control over news reporting, potentially tightening restrictions in a nation vigilant against information that could undermine social stability and security, analysts noted.

Recent years have seen China grappling with more frequent and severe weather extremes, challenging local authorities' ability to respond effectively. The amendments to the Emergency Response Law, effective from November 1, escalate fines for insufficient disaster preparation or response fivefold, up to 1 million yuan (£110,000).

Under the new regulations, government agencies will exert greater influence over media coverage, mandating a more regulated "news interviewing and reporting system" without specifying detailed guidelines. Officials are instructed to guide and support news media while supervising public opinion.

The revised law emphasises the importance of timely, accurate, objective, and fair reporting during emergencies. It mandates swift dissemination of emergency warnings and designates personnel responsible for public communication in crises.

While ostensibly aiming to enhance the accuracy and fairness of information, critics argue the revisions further consolidate state control over information flows. They impose stricter requirements on journalists covering emergencies, fostering a more prescriptive environment for media professionals.

Passed by the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress, the revisions introduce over 30 new provisions to the 2007 law. They prohibit government agencies from delaying, misreporting, concealing information, or obstructing others from reporting, responding to past public outcry over delayed disaster management.

Foreigners in China will now be required to comply with local laws and government directives under the updated legislation, reflecting China's increasing scrutiny of crisis preparedness and its political expectations during emergencies.

The regulatory changes signal a heightened focus on crisis management readiness, impacting not only foreign residents and media but also international businesses operating within China, observers cautioned.

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