The annual session of the Chinese parliament, postponed due to the crisis with the new coronavirus, started with the deputies wearing a mask and passing numerous tests for the coronavirus, Reuters reported.
President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders appeared without a face mask in front of about 5,000 members of the Chinese National Assembly for the annual session in the Great Hall of the People. This year, lawmakers from across the country had to undergo multiple coronavirus tests and were isolated in hotels. Meetings with the media and speeches will be online.
The parliamentary session was originally scheduled for early March, but had to be postponed by more than two months due to restrictive measures in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The restrictions in Beijing remained in effect until the last days of April.
This is the first case of a postponement of a session of the Chinese parliament for 25 years and its organization clearly shows the determination of the government, which is fighting the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus, Reuters notes.
After undergoing tests for the coronavirus, lawmakers had to provide details of their travels and meetings in recent weeks. Some of them were also quarantined. State media reporters were quarantined for a week and were ordered to walk only from their hotel to the media center during the session.
Due to the great uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, China has for the first time since 1990 abandoned the goal of increasing GDP. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said at the opening of the parliamentary session in Beijing that the reason for this decision was “difficult to predict factors” that affect the world economy and trade.
Instead, the government will focus on “controlling the unemployment rate and ensuring living standards,” the prime minister added. He warned that economic growth is expected to slow further this quarter, after a previous contraction of 6.8 per cent – the first such case since at least 1992.
The opening of the parliamentary session, China’s most important political event of the year, was overshadowed by accusations that Beijing should be held accountable for the virus and fears of rising unemployment, the Guardian reported. There are fears that economic instability could threaten the social stability and control of the Communist Party over power, the British publication emphasizes.
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