About 5,000 Chinese delegates gathered for the opening of parliament known as the National People’s Congress (NPC), and a government advisory body, for the top annual political assembly in the Great Hall of the People.
The Congress gathering was originally scheduled for early March but was delayed by more than two months because of a nationwide lockdown in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The lockdown in China remained in place in the capital until late April.
Opening of Chinese Parliament
On Friday, May 22, 2020, Chinese leaders gathered to attend the opening of NPC under strict planning of the government, which imposed multiple coronavirus tests for the delegates ahead of the meeting. Among nearly 5,000 delegates, President Xi Jinping and other top leaders appeared in the Congress without masks.
For the Congress gathering, delegates who were traveling from across the country had to undergo multiple coronavirus tests and they have been isolated in hotels. It is the first time the country has witnessed that the opening of parliament has been delayed in 25 years, despite it clearly showed to put virus spread under control by the government.
Graeme Smith, a fellow at the Department of Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University, viewed, “From a political perspective, it’s important they hold it despite the costs and risks involved because of coronavirus,” adding that “It’s a symbol of strength and reassurance to the people but also to the party,” referring to the ruling Communist Party.
Multiple Coronavirus Tests Conducted
Not only the delegates, state-media staff that sought to attend the grand opening of the Congress were quarantined for seven days and have been instructed with limited contact by allowing only to move between their hotel and the media center during the week-long event. Moreover, about 200 delegates who returned from Hong Kong to mainland China had to go through another test before taking nucleic acid tests.
Some foreign reporters, who were allowed to cover Friday’s opening session, had to arrive on Thursday afternoon and submit a nucleic acid test and then were assigned to stay in a designated hotel to gain access to the hall off Tiananmen Square.
In Friday’s gathering, the Congress was inaugurated with an opening speech by the premier outlining goals for the coming year. The shortest congressional address in 40 years, Premier Li Keqiang pledged to step up stimulus spending.
However, the government declined to announce a target for 2020 gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the first time since it began announcing them in 1990. Meanwhile, China reported that the economy contracted by 6.8% in the first quarter as the coronavirus outbreak paralyzed production.
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