The Chinese government is set to make the unprecedented call to postpone its biggest political gathering held in Beijing every March because of the ongoing coronavirus (covid-19) epidemic.
The standing committee of China’s rubber-stamp Parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), will meet later this month to discuss the postponement, state media reported, indicating that the decision to push it back is but a formality.
The official statement didn’t mention it but the postponement was likely caused by the risk of cross-infection among the thousands who gather for it inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Thousands of members from all of China’s provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions gather in Beijing for two weeks in March for the session, commonly referred to as the Two Sessions.
It comprises two separate meetings: One of NPC deputies, and the other of delegates to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC), the country’s top political advisory committee.
The NPC has 2,980 deputies while the CPPCC has 2,158 delegates.
The third annual session of the 13th NPC was originally planned to open on March 5 in Beijing at the Great Hall of the People.
New dates for the meeting will be announced later.
Preparations for the session had already been made.
“But after the outbreak of covid-19, epidemic prevention and control has become the most important work. It is now a crucial moment to curb the spread and win the battle, so no effort should be spared,” the official news agency, Xinhua, said quoting NPC spokesperson, Zang Tiewei.
Tiewei said that many of the nearly 3,000 NPC deputies, including leading officials at the municipal, provincial levels and other fields, are fighting at the frontlines of the epidemic battle.
“After careful evaluation, the Council of Chairpersons (of the NPC) decided that it is necessary to postpone the annual legislative session to allow efforts to be concentrated on containing the epidemic. This is in line with putting people’s lives and health as the top priority,” Tiewei said.
Though the decision to delay the Two Sessions seems to have been taken in principle, as per relevant Chinese laws, the NPC meets in session once a year and is convened by the NPC Standing Committee.
The decision to postpone the session needs to be made by the NPC Standing Committee.