This year's two sessions－China's most important annual political event－are expected to be unusual not only because they will have been postponed for about 80 days from their customary start date. They also are expected to focus more on public health issues.
The third plenary session of the 13th National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, is to open on May 22 in Beijing, while the third plenary session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the nation's top political advisory body, will start on May 21, according to two official releases on Wednesday. No information was given about when the two sessions will close.
The term "two sessions" refers to the annual full session of the NPC, which customarily begins on March 5, and the annual plenary session of the CPPCC National Committee, which usually opens on March 3.
During the sessions, about 3,000 national legislators and 2,150 national political advisers gather in Beijing to review work reports of the central government and top judicial authorities and the annual budget, and to bring voices from the grassroots and different social sectors to the central leadership. In some years, they also review key bills or elect State leaders.
However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NPC Standing Committee decided in February to postpone this year's NPC full session so that more focus could be given to epidemic containment efforts and to better protect people's lives, health and safety. A similar decision was also made by the CPPCC.
Given that the epidemic prevention and control situation in the country is improving steadily and the normal economic and social life is gradually resuming, thanks to strong central leadership and the hard work of the whole country and the people, the conditions are right for convening the NPC annual session at an appropriate time, said a statement issued by the NPC Standing Committee after it concluded a bimonthly meeting on Wednesday.
Li Zhanshu, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, said various factors were taken into consideration regarding the new start dates, and he called for careful preparation to ensure a smooth session.
At a meeting of the Chairperson's Council of the CPPCC National Committee, Wang Yang, chairman of the committee, said it was a major decision of the Communist Party of China Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core to convene the two sessions now that the country has regularized its COVID-19 epidemic response measures.
He emphasized focusing on key tasks of the Party and the country, providing valuable advice and good plans on issues like epidemic prevention and control, the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, poverty alleviation and the making of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25). He also called for coordinating the preparation of the CPPCC annual session with epidemic prevention and control work.
Many NPC deputies anticipated an unusual meeting this year.
With the background of battling COVID-19, there will be more discussion on related issues such as public health and how to resume normal social and economic life, said Li Zongsheng, an NPC deputy and lawyer from Liaoning province.
"The epidemic has made me think more about how to better deal with infectious diseases through the rule of law," he said, adding that he will submit suggestions on amending laws when the session begins.
Fu Yuhang, a national legislator from Sichuan province, said she is looking forward to discussing epidemic-related topics, including how to better prevent infectious diseases and manage medical donations.
"I'm also concerned about the personal safety of teachers and doctors, especially after some tragedies last year," she said. "I'm planning to submit suggestions in the upcoming session on giving more legal protection to those working in hospitals and schools."
Both Li and Fu said they think the postponement of the NPC session shows that the country makes people's health and safety a top priority, and China having basically controlled the outbreak demonstrates its capability to handle such urgent public health emergencies.