Chinese Parliamentary Sessions 2013
March 2013 sees the annual meeting of the two legislative and consultative bodies of China, where major policies are decided and key government officials appointed. The National People's Congress (NPC) is held in the Great Hall of the People in China's capital, Beijing, and with 2,987 members, is the largest parliament in the world. It gathers alongside the People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) whose members represent various groups of society.
Activists hit back against Beijing leader's comments
Top official's recent comments infringed their freedom of speech, says autonomy group
The city's activists say comments by a state leader who denounced them for waving colonial flags infringed their freedom of speech and could stir further conflict.
Hong Kong Autonomy Movement spokesman Vincent Lau hit back yesterday after Yu Zhengsheng , a Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee member, was quoted as saying that "the Chinese people will not accept some Hongkongers waving the colonial flag".
"The Basic Law guarantees all Hongkongers the freedom of speech and expression", Lau said. "We are perfectly free … to wave any flag we like as the signature of our group."
Yu's comment did nothing to ease the anti-mainland sentiment, he said, and stressed that his group was seeking to safeguard the "one country, two systems" principle rather than to campaign for independence.
"Yu's comment has apparently gone against the Basic Law and meddled in Hong Kong issues," said Lau.
"Unless one day the national security law is legislated, I do not think anyone should be charged just for speaking out."
Yu, who is tipped to be the nation's top advisory body's next chairman, is the first high-level mainland official to address controversies involving the city. He was quoted by a Hong Kong delegate as saying that the city could not become a base and bridgehead for subverting the mainland, and warning that "opposition" and "centrifugal forces" would not be allowed to rule the city after universal suffrage was introduced.
Veteran activist Bobo Yip Po-lam said she believed the comment was an indication that the Beijing leader was "nervous and worried" over the Occupy Central plan.
The plan, which was suggested by a law professor in January, aims to occupy the roads in Central in a show of support for universal suffrage.
"It seems the Beijing officials are trying to discourage our hope of gaining genuine universal suffrage," Yip said.
She said the plan, which she backed, was now under detailed discussion and that "all key elements to kick it off are ready".
Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan urged Beijing not to betray the city's trust and to keep to its promise of granting it genuine universal suffrage to select its chief executive.
"I do not wish to see this result, but I must warn that … we are ready to take a more radical approach," Ho said.