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2020-04-29

As COVID-19 epidemic subsides, China Parliament sets the key meeting for May

Image:- national flag is seen in Beijing, China

China announced on Wednesday that its parliament will open a key annual session on May 22, pointing out that Beijing is seeing the country return to normal after the COVID-19 epidemic has been reduced to a near-still for months.

Delegates will ratify major legislation during the National People's Congress gathering in the capital, and the government will unveil economic targets, set projections for defense spending, and make changes to personnel. Also, typically, the ruling Communist Party announces signature policy initiatives.

The session was originally scheduled to begin on March 5 but was postponed due to COVID-19, which infected nearly 83,000 people and killed more than 4,600 people on the mainland after emerging in central Wuhan late last year.

As the epidemic subsided, economic and social life gradually returned to normal, allowing the congress to convene, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the NPC's standing committee, the top decision-making body in the legislature, as it said.

The committee also appointed Huang Runqiu as the new ecology and environment minister, a post vacated earlier this month when predecessor Li Ganjie became deputy head of the Communist Party for the province of Shandong, Xinhua reported.

Also named as the new justice minister was Tang Yijun to replace Fu Zhenghua, who has reached the retirement age of 65 for ministers.

The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a parliamentary advisory body, has proposed starting its annual session a day before the opening of parliamentary session.

Analysts expect that China will roll out additional fiscal stimulus to cushion the COVID-19 blow that has developed into a global pandemic that will trigger a severe global recession with some fear.

During the period January-March, when the government imposed severe travel and transport restrictions to curb the spread of the epidemic, China's economy contracted for the first time in record.

Parliament is also expected to discuss Hong Kong's anti-government protests, amid growing speculation that Beijing is taking steps to strengthen its grip on the city.

How long the parliament and its advisory body will meet for this time is unclear, and people familiar with the matter have told Reuters that this year's annual sessions could be the shortest in decades due to concerns about COVID-19. Over 5,000 delegates usually descend from all over China to Beijing for at least 10 days.

Beijing City announced on Wednesday that it will effectively reduce its COVID-19 emergency response level by 0000 hours on Thursday and no longer require 14-day quarantine for some people arriving from the country's low-risk areas, removing a logistics hurdle for delegates traveling to the capital for the key political meetings next month.