The “two sessions” meetings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference have opened in Beijing. The Hindu reports that the annual legislative sessions have evolved to be more than a rubber stamp congress:
Critics say the meetings are no more than an over-elaborate ritual to rubber-stamp government policies already approved by the ruling Communist Party. Most analysts in Beijing say this is usually the case for the less powerful CPPCC, where new policy decisions are rarely taken. Its members this week were accused by China’s ‘netizens’ of not doing much more than sitting in “smilence” — smiling at policies and keeping silent during debates — a term that has spread like wildfire on Chinese blogs this week.
However, NPC meetings in recent years have begun to belie this notion; emerging as a forum for debating, reviewing and opposing controversial government policies.
This year, the meetings have drawn particular attention with a heated public debate on the gap between urban and rural China, which is at its widest since economic reforms were launched three decades ago. An urban resident in China now earns 3.3 times more than a rural one.
In the past week, a number of scholars and domestic media have called on the NPC to adopt a law to ease government restrictions on migration — an issue expected to be at the centre of discussions the next two weeks. Rural migrants who move to cities to find work are denied access to healthcare and social services under a five-decade-old household registration or hukou system, which scholars say has exacerbated income disparities.
See also this video report from the Wall Street Journal:
And “Russell Leigh Moses: China’s Legislative Tease” from the WSJ’s China Real Time blog.