Jackie Chan, Yao Ming Attend China's Annual Congressional Meeting
Leading Chinese filmmakers Jackie Chan, Feng Xiaogang and Chen Kaige were among delegates gathered in the Great Hall of the People for China’s annual rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress and its advisory body.
Wednesday, March 5 marks the start of the strictly choreographed parliament meeting in the Great Hall of the People in downtown Beijing, which is expected to approve efforts to keep President Xi Jinping’s economic reform plans on track.
The event is actually two political meetings, the ‘liang hui’, which combines the annual sessions of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a debating chamber that began on Monday, and the National People's Congress (NPC).
The NPC gives rubber-stamp approval to policy drafts that have already been hammered out and approved by the Communist Party’s senior leadership in closed-door meetings.
The NPC will be closely watched to see what changes it might introduce to help the entertainment industry. There has been much speculation about the possibility of the quota for foreign movies allowed into China being raised, although the Film Bureau has denied the reports.
However, the strong performance of Chinese movies in recent months, plus pressure on Beijing to remove quotas to meet World Trade Organization rules, has some insiders speculating that change might soon be afoot.
The NPC is likely to include some reference to efforts to promote the culture industries, and industry members will be closely watching to see what this means for censorship and attempts to sell Chinese movies overseas.
The celebrities are attending the CPPCC, which is an advisory body to the NPC and has no political power.
However, it does offer a platform. Feng, who has directed movies such as Assembly and Back to 1942, has in previous years used the CPPCC to slam censorship in China.
And it is a high-profile body too. Five people were stripped of their CPPCC membership over the past year, reportedly for corruption offenses, including Liu Yingxia, one of China's richest women.
Other celebrities taking part include the Nobel literature laureate Mo Yan, former NBA star Yao Ming, actors Pu Cunxi, Zhao Benshan and Zhang Guoli, and popular entertainer Huang Hong.
The annual session of the CPPCC opened with a moment of silence for the victims of a deadly knife attack in the Kunming train station in southwest China on March 1.
President Xi marks his first year as president this week, and the NPC will focus on pushing through the package of reforms decided at the Third Plenum meeting in November.
The event is characterized by synchronized rounds of applause and lots of promises to “unswervingly” follow Marxist Leninist diktats and promote the party.
The parliamentary gathering is also one of the wealthiest in the world -- there are over 80 billionaires among its 5,000 delegates.
The Chinese government is cracking down on corruption, which has translated into an austerity campaign. This means no luxury dishes on the menu at the NPC, and only one bottle of water per participant, with no seconds until you finish the first bottle.
Gone are the days when restaurants geared up their special menus for the visiting delegates, including shark fin soup and abalone.