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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: China’s Cautious Political Gatherings

AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein
In this Wednesday, May 20, 2020, photo, barricades are pulled in front of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Hawaii’s legislature has been meeting at the capitol for the last couple of weeks at a distance from each other and from the public. Proceedings are televised, but safety remains a focus. That’s also true for a much larger gathering of lawmakers coming together this week in China.

Some 5,000 delegates are now in Beijing for two of the biggest annual meetings on China’s political calendar. One is the national legislature — the 3,000 or so members of the National People’s Congress.

The other is the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, about 2,000 people, delegates who — as the name suggests – are more informal consultants. They don’t even need to be members of the communist party.

These meetings normally take place in March, an annual review of policy goals and plans — one usual headline relates the official growth target for China’s economy. Not that there’s a lot of dramatic political debate here, the National People’s Congress has never voted down a proposed law.

The country’s real power lies with President Xi Jinping and the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party — currently 7 members.

But the annual gathering sets a tone, and sends international messages.

This year, public health is of course at the center — and that starts with the delegates themselves. The meetings don’t start until tomorrow, but state-run media report out of town delegates have been in the city for a while in quarantine.

Temperature checks will be part of the routine during the sessions — and those attending will only be allowed in their lodgings, the proceedings, and controlled dining opportunities.

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