Mainland media and internet users have expressed disappointment about the high level of absenteeism and lack of concrete reform proposals at the Shenzhen Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and People's Congress.
Expectations had been high because the meetings were the first since new Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping made a high-profile visit to Shenzhen early last month and sent out strong signals of backing for a new reform push.
Pomp was absent for Tuesday's opening ceremony, with no red carpets or female attendants, a common sight at such ceremonies. Shenzhen party chief Wang Rong even showed off his new, made-in-Shenzhen electric car - a 370,000 yuan (HK$461,000) BYD e6 - to show his support for local industry.
But internet users have been circulating photographs showing many empty seats inside the hall as Shenzhen mayor Xu Qin focused on the economic system, administration and residents' incomes in his work report to the congress on Tuesday.
Other photos showed deputies playing with their mobile phones, dozing, chatting and smoking in the corridor.
The Nanfang Daily, Guangdong's Communist Party mouthpiece, ran an article on Wednesday asking whether some supervision should be put in place to stop deputies leaving in the middle of the meeting.
A source close to the meeting said deputies came up with a wide range of excuses for needing to leave the meeting, including the death of a brother-in-law and having to deal with a fire at a business in Shanghai.
A Southern Metropolis Daily report revealing that dozens of deputies had spent public money and stayed in five-star hotels that cost more than 1,000 yuan a night has also stirred controversy. The deputies had to move out of the hotels and into less expensive, government-run guesthouses after public pressure.
But the public have mostly directed their anger at the slack behaviour of many deputies.
"They have already forgotten the responsibilities of a deputy," said He Zhijian , a retired grass-roots official in Guangdong. "When reading about their malpractice in the newspapers, how could we believe that Shenzhen could meet the expectations of the central government and residents, and be an engine of deepening reform?