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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

All the fun of the National People's Congress

March 8, 2010

The annual gathering in Beijing's Great Hall of
the People is the nearest thing you get to
democracy in Communist China. Just don't expect
to hear any dissent, reports Clifford Coonan
The Independent (UK)
March 6, 2010

One of the world's truly remarkable political
spectacles, China's National People's Congress
(NPC), opened yesterday for the annual show of
support for the policies of the ruling Communist Party.

For China-watchers, the events in the Great Hall
of the People are crucial to building up a
picture of what is happening in the most populous
nation on earth with its fast-growing major
economy and expanding global role. While the NPC
is not democratically elected, it has
significance because many in China see it as a
forum for expressing their views.

That means that no petitioners who are angry at
land grabs or local corruption are allowed near
Tiananmen Square, with security officers checking
bags and much of the area rigged with tape. Many
petitioners have been hauled off or ordered to stay at home.

However China's premier, Wen Jiabao, addressed
many of the concerns that are stirring deep
unease among the country's 1.3 billion people in
his annual policy speech in the massive Great
Hall of the People, a red-flag bedecked
Soviet-style building where many of the major events in the capital are held.

Highlighting threats to social stability, Mr Wen
said that more needed to be done to create jobs,
strengthen social welfare and boost development
in restive regions such as Tibet.

"Everything we do, we do to ensure that the
people live a happier life with more dignity and
to make our society fairer and more harmonious," he told the 3,000 delegates.

The leadership has staved off more serious
discontent by focusing on economic growth, and
the country escaped the worst of the global downturn.

All around Tiananmen Square, the site of some of
the bloodiest actions of the 1989 crackdown on
pro-democracy protests in Beijing, red flags fly
from the roofs of buildings, lining the way to
the Great Hall. Soldiers stand to attention
outside the hall and vigilant police ring a wider area around the hall.

Inside, the seats are laid out in tight order.
Big bunches of flowers are on some of the tables
and red flags dominate. The effectively unanimous
votes given for every bill at the meeting, as
well as the disciplined, enthusiastic rounds of
applause, hearken back to that time in history
when the world was divided on clear ideological grounds.

This year, China's annual parliament will approve
an increase in the country's spending on defence
of 7.5 per cent, a smaller increase than expected
and the first time in more than two decades the
jump has been less than double digits. China has
repeatedly promised that its breathtaking
economic advances would be a "peaceful rise", but
some analysts are wondering about the aims of the
armed forces' expansion and believe that the
official increase is twice what Beijing claims.
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