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China's minority groups in the spotlight
Publication Date : 07-03-2014
Beijing is abuzz with the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) meetings this week.
Known collectively as liang hui or “two sessions”, the meetings run from March 5 to 13 and March 3 to 12 respectively.
All eyes are on the capital of China as delegates, made up of lawmakers and political advisers, arrived from all over the country to discuss social and economic policies.
CPPCC chairman Yu Zhengsheng, when speaking at the opening ceremony of the advisory body on Monday, pledged to promote sustainable and healthy economic development, social harmony and stability.
He said the CPPCC would enhance the roles of members from ethnic minorities and religious circles in order to build closer ties with people from minority ethnic and faith groups.
“We will conduct investigations and studies on ways to improve the distribution of industry in ethnic minority areas and religious affairs management in rural areas, promote faster development and spur unity and harmony in ethnic minority areas,” he said.
Yu added that religious leaders and believers would play a positive role in stimulating economic and social development.
Elaborating on the tasks ahead, Yu said the CPPCC would also conduct thorough studies on improving exchanges between the mainland and Hong Kong and Macau.
He reiterated that the principle of “one country, two systems” would be upheld, with the two regions enjoying a high degree of autonomy.
His remarks came at a time when Hong Kong is in the midst of seeking the public’s view on the process of choosing the city’s next leader through universal suffrage.
“Occupy Central with Love and Peace”, a non-violent occupation protest, has been proposed to be held in July to press Beijing for a democratic nomination process.
In a press conference, Fu Ying, spokesperson of the second session of the 12th NPC, advised all parties to be patient while the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) carried out public consultation.
She said Hong Kong’s chief executive could be chosen by universal suffrage in 2017, according to the Basic Law and NPC’s decisions.
“The universal suffrage is a huge event. It is critical to the future stability and development of Hong Kong.
“We believe the SAR government can handle all related affairs and we hope people in Hong Kong can work hand in hand to achieve the universal suffrage as planned,” she said.
Another topic of public concern was pollution. The Chinese government assured the people that it would take action to improve the situation.
Responding to a question on the country’s smog problem, Fu said the NPC would continue to review the environmental protection law draft amendment and plan for laws on the prevention and control of water and soil pollution.
She said the NPC had yet to vote on the environmental protection law draft amendment although it had gone through second and third readings.
“The additional review aims at absorbing suggestions and wisdom from the public in order to better reflect public concern. We hope we can enact a high quality and practical environmental protection law,” she said.
When delivering his work report at the opening ceremony of the NPC, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the government would “declare war” on pollution and “fight it with the same determination the country battled poverty”.
Among the measures included removing six million high emission vehicles and closing of 50,000 coal-fired furnaces.
Meanwhile, the recent terrorist attack in a train station in Kunming, Yunnan Province, which left 29 dead and 143 injured, cast a solemn shadow on the opening ceremonies of the liang hui.
Both ceremonies observed a moment of silence in tribute of the victims.
National news agency Xinhua said in a commentary that the silent tribute condemned the attack as well as demonstrated the determination to crack down on violent activities.
“Observing a moment of silence together is not only a show of sympathy for the lost lives, but also a call for all ethnic groups to unite even closer. When people of all ethnic groups unite as one, terrorists will fail in their bid to interfere with stability and unity,” it said.