China wraps up parliament session

March 13, 2009 12:00 am

, BEIJING, Mar 13 – Nearly 3,000 Chinese lawmakers wrapped up their full session of parliament on Friday, an annual exercise of the largely rubber-stamp legislature that this year focused on the global economic crisis.

Right from the start of the nine-day National People’s Congress (NPC), delegates were reminded of the dire prospects for China’s economy in the year ahead.

"The global financial crisis continues to spread and get worse," Premier Wen Jiabao said in his annual work report read out before the assembled legislature inside the Great Hall of the People to the west of Tiananmen Square.

"The external economic environment has become more serious, and uncertainties have increased significantly."

However, Wen also expressed confidence that China would be able to "overcome difficulties and challenges," a message repeated by President Hu Jintao later in the nine-day session.

"Challenge and opportunity always come together. Under certain conditions, one could be transformed into the other," Hu said as he met delegates from Guangdong, a southern province particularly hard hit by the crisis.

To help the economy weather the financial storms, China has opted for aggressive fiscal policies, reflected in a budget for 2009 that will feature a record deficit of 950 billion yuan (140 billion dollars).

The budget, along with Wen’s work report and other documents, were up for vote during the legislature’s brief final session on Friday and all were approved overwhelmingly.

Wen’s work report, which set an economic growth target for this year of about eight percent, was backed with 97.4 percent support from the 2,898 deputies present.

Even though the economy was the dominant agenda item during the talks in Beijing, the issue of Tibet also emerged on the sidelines amid growing tension in the Himalayan region.

Coinciding with this year’s parliamentary session was the 50th anniversary of a failed Ticapitalfmnewn uprising against Chinese rule that resulted in the exile of the region’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

While Chinese security forces imposed a lockdown in and around Tibet, political leaders in Beijing kept up the rhetoric against the Dalai Lama.

"We must build up a Great Wall in our fight against separatism and safeguard the unity of the motherland and push Tibet’s basic stability toward long-term security," state television quoted Hu as saying to Ticapitalfmnewn leaders Monday.

Since the NPC only meets once a year and is too large to allow any real debate, some observers say its real function is more symbolic, giving China a democratic veneer while also signalling harmony among various social groups.

They argue that the NPC’s Standing Committee, which has about 150 members and meets every two months, is China’s real legislature, although like the NPC, it is not elected by direct popular vote.

Wen was due to give his annual news conference shortly after parliament closed.


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