Lukewarm response to lacklustre delivery
Li Peng gave a lacklustre delivery of his last Government Work Report, winning lukewarm applause from NPC deputies.
The two-week session started yesterday morning when President Jiang Zemin led other top leaders on to the stage.
Outgoing NPC chairman Qiao Shi walked behind Chinese People's Consultative Conference Chairman Li Ruihuan and sat separated from Mr Jiang and other Politburo Standing Committee members.
Mr Li started delivering his report soon after NPC Vice-Chairman Tian Jiyun announced the opening of the Ninth NPC to 2,944 deputies present.
Mr Li stumbled many times during his speech, which lasted more than 100 minutes, and sometimes appeared to have lost his concentration.
He occasionally confused figures and twice mispronounced the Ninth Five-Year Plan as the Fifth Nine-Year Plan.
He relied on the arm rest of the lectern for support and delivered the report seated.
Mr Li had a bad cold and occasionally cleared his throat noisily into the microphones.
He failed to raise his voice to emphasise key points of his speech.
Mr Li did not appear to have impressed deputies, who greeted his delivery with only sporadic applause.
The most enthusiastic response came when he hailed Hong Kong's reunification, proclaiming that the SAR would benefit and had a bright future.
He said the handover had washed away '100 years of shame'.
Hebei Governor Ye Liansong gave his support to Mr Li.
'I will say it's 10 out of 10 for premier Li,' Mr Ye said outside the Great Hall of the People after the opening session.