Gathering of leaders in Beijing a time for feasting

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 March, 2013, 3:52am

Sessions of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference aren't just about the politics - they traditionally involve rounds of lavish banquets and extravagant receptions.

And while Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping has called for an end to official extravagance, Hong Kong deputies to the two bodies expect to have a busy social schedule when the plenary sessions kick off next week.

"Chinese society has long highly valued gastronomy and cuisine culture. It would be difficult to avoid banquets during this period," said Cheung Ming-man, a local deputy to the NPC.

The annual session of the CPPCC begins tomorrow, while the NPC plenary gets under way on Tuesday.

"During the sessions, the leaders of different provinces and municipalities gather in Beijing, which is a rare occasion. It would be unavoidable to have meals with officials that we are acquainted with, to catch up with each other," Cheung said.

"Maybe provincial and municipal governments will have to cut their budget for meals. If that's the case, deputies may settle the bills ourselves instead."

David Wong Yau-kar, an NPC deputy and honorary president of the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong, said: "I think banquets hosted by officials will probably be reduced, but I still have private appointments, mainly with Hong Kong or civilian groups."

As it did last year, the city's largest Beijing-loyalist party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, will hold a cocktail reception in Beijing during the plenary sessions - on Tuesday.

The new Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong also plans to host a reception on Thursday.

During a spring reception at the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, director Zhang Xiaoming said the bureau would reduce general social activities, ban officers from receiving expensive gifts from local citizens, and decline festive hampers.