Delegates attend the opening ceremony for the Fifth Session of the 11th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's top political advisory body, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Saturday. This year's session of the top legislature, the National People's Congress, is set to start Monday. Photo: IC
Deputies to China's top legislative body, the National People's Congress (NPC), convene today for the annual session to review the work of the government and deliberate on issues of public concern.
This is the "most important conference before the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China," Li Zhaoxing, spokesman of this year's meeting, said yesterday.
In the next 10 days, deputies will review and approve the budget and plan for the year, as well as deliberate on the draft amendment to the Criminal Procedure Law.
Public opinion shows a continuing focus on issues closely related to their livelihoods and interests, such as living expenses, housing prices, social security and food safety, among others.
An online poll conducted by people.com.cn showed social security draws most of the attention, followed by income distribution and medical reform. Issues such as education equality, anti-corruption and housing price controls also drew wide attention.
Differing slightly from the online poll, a telephone investigation involving 3,000 interviewees showed that property price controls, food safety and living expenses are the top three issues concerning the public, the People's Daily reported, citing a study by Horizon Research Consultancy Group.
Zhu Lijia, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times that those hot topics have great impact on people's livelihood, and that they have been on everybody's minds for the past decade.
"These key words seem to be separate, but they do influence each other. For example, people hope for better social security because they depend more on social welfare due to soaring living costs," Zhu said, adding that many problems were rooted in corruption and unfair wealth distribution.
At the same time, direct elections are being held at the grass-roots level to elect a new group of deputies to the NPC, who will meet for the first time in March next year to elect new leaders to the government.
Direct elections are only held at the county level and below, and due to the large population and unequal development across regions, it is still difficult to apply direct elections on a wider scope, Li said.
It is the first time the revised election law has been put into practice. The law, revised in 2010, stipulates that rural and urban areas should have an equal proportion of deputies.
When the law was first drafted in 1953, a deputy from rural areas represented eight times more people than a deputy from urban areas.
"This should result in better representation because everyone will be equally represented," said Mo Jihong, a law professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"But the number of deputies also has to reflect quality across regions and ethnicity, so next year there will be some minor changes to the number of deputies in different regions," he told the Global Times.
The annual two sessions, referring to the meetings of the top legislature and the political consultative body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, have become more transparent in recent years, especially with the rising popularity of microblogging.
When it was reported that Yang Wei, a former world champion gymnast, had not proposed any bills during his five years as an NPC deputy, but treated the meetings as learning opportunities, Web users were quick to respond.
"What's the use of representatives like this?" Shen Dongjun, a businessman, wrote on Weibo yesterday. "It's sad that being a deputy becomes a reward and a source of power, while the deputies know nothing about their most important responsibility."
"Supervision from the public will eventually boost the reform of the election system, which is not very transparent at present," said Zhu, adding that it will be an important part of China's political reform.
"With the fast economic development, the country's political system should be improved accordingly. Deputies and members are expected to speak on behalf of the public, so they should be elected strictly in accordance with related rules."
"However, the nonfeasance of some deputies will not hinder the importance of the two sessions. Proposals and decisions made during the gatherings play a guiding role for the nation's future," Zhu added.