China to hold Parliament session from May 21 as Covid-19 abates

China on Monday announced that the annual Parliament session, which was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak, would be held here from May 21 to showcase the country’s return to normalcy following the pandemic.

The Parliament session comprising the legislature — the National People’s Congress (NPC) — and the advisory body the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) is regarded as China’s annual political season as over 6,000 deputies converge in the capital for about 10 days to deliberate and pass the annual agenda of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC).

The CPPCC would meet on May 21 followed by the NPC a day later which would begin its session with the submission of the government’s work report by Premier Li Keqiang.

The Parliament session was due to be held in early March but put off as coronavirus, which broke out in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December, brought the country and later the world to a standstill.

While the modalities of the meeting are yet to be announced, officials say it could be a truncated session with proceedings curtailed to about a week.

It now appears that the CPC has decided to hold it at the Great Hall of the People, where the two sessions are held every year, instead of through video-conferencing as a number of top hotels in the city have been taken over by the government.

The media guidelines for the coverage are yet to be announced.

Speculation is rife that all those attending the sessions will have to undergo Covid-19 tests to ensure a virus-free gathering.

As most parts of the world still struggle to contain the coronavirus, China in the last few weeks was keen to demonstrate that it has contained Covid-19.

Besides opening the entertainment outlets like Shanghai Disneyland, China has done away with the use of masks in Beijing from Sunday. The majority of the people in the capital continue to use masks as a precaution.

As of Sunday, the death toll in China remained at 4,634 while the country reported 25 new coronavirus cases including 14 asymptomatic cases.

The overall confirmed cases in China reached 82,954 as of Sunday with 82 patients still undergoing treatment.

The NPC session, which is often regarded as rubber-stamp parliament, for its routine approval of the CPC proposals was being held amid massive global outrage and criticism of China’s handling of the coronavirus.

US President Donald Trump, who has been pressing China to agree for an inquiry into the origin of the virus, including the allegation that it emerged from a bio-lab in Wuhan, hardened his rhetoric by threatening to cut off Washington’s ties with Beijing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China must get ready for “unprecedented external adversity and challenges in the long-run over Covid-19 crisis”.

His leadership has also come under the scanner with murmurs of dissent in the CPC.

Till now, Xi, 66, is regarded as the most powerful Chinese leader in recent times heading the CPC, the military and the presidency.

With China removing the presidential term limit, Xi is expected to remain in power for life unless the tide turns against him in the party.

Besides the criticism over his delayed action to curb the coronavirus, Xi has been facing a series of challenges including massive public agitation against the growing Chinese control of Hong Kong and the continued slowdown of the economy.

The country’s economy plummeted by 6.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

The future of his mega multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative is also uncertain post-Covid-19.

The secrecy behind the Covid-19 also prompted calls for the freedom of speech. Several professionals have signed a petition to be submitted to the NPC over the issue.

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