Thirty-three years after he attended his first annual meeting of the National People's Congress in Beijing, Ng Hon-mun recalls how the body was originally a platform showcasing political allegiances and individual idolatry. The meeting in 1975 - the first in nearly a decade that saw the Red Guards purge millions of people in the name of the Cultural Revolution - achieved little except having someone who was not a member of the Gang of Four elected as the leader of the national legislature, said Mr Ng, an 81-year-old Hong Kong deputy to the NPC, who did not stand for re-election this year. Just like any other NPC session, deputies from all over the country converged on Beijing, yet in reality they had little chance to deliberate on major legislative proposals or policy issues. 'Everybody just gave their cheers and sang praises [for Mao Zedong and the Communist Party], and declared their allegiance to this and that,' he said. The Cultural Revolution, which started in 1966, was ostensibly a war on 'feudal and bourgeois culture'. It was a period of mass rallies and big-character posters pasted on walls across the nation denouncing 'capitalist-roaders' and 'revisionists'. Yet critics have long pointed out that it was designed to oust Mao's political rivals and pave the way for his chosen successors. The fact that the NPC passed a 'weird' constitution that enshrined the notion of class struggle reflected the rubber-stamp nature of the national legislature at the time, Mr Ng said. Sitting in his office at Pui Kiu Middle School where he chairs the board of directors, the veteran delegate said the situation was much different now, with a more institutionalised NPC operating with an enhanced monitoring role. In his more than three decades on the NPC, Mr Ng saw the number of Hong Kong delegates rise from 14 to 36. And since the 1997 handover, the city has sent its own delegation instead of tagging along as part of the Guangdong delegation. Before the handover, all the Hong Kong delegates were appointed and they were all pro-Beijing figures. 'In fact, in the colonial era, only the so-called traditional pro-Beijing figures dared to take up positions that were politically related to the mainland,' Mr Ng said. Post-1997 developments were in huge contrast - NPC candidates across the political spectrum were chosen by an election panel made up of members from various sectors of the community, he said. Born in Shantou in Guangdong province in 1926, Mr Ng came to Hong Kong to teach at Pui Kiu Middle School after graduating from Zhongshan University in Guangzhou in 1947. He has lived in Hong Kong ever since and taken up various public positions, including being a member of the HKSAR preparatory committee. Having met various state leaders over the years, Mr Ng said he seldom saw their softer sides because they often looked 'serious' when attending meetings. But he said Jiang Zemin , the president who presided over Hong Kong's handover, was the one most familiar with the city delegates because of his frequent presence at group deliberations. 'I think it's because it was the first time that Hong Kong formed its own delegation after the handover, which was why he chose to attend frequently as a political gesture,' he said. Current President Hu Jintao , who took over the helm in 2003, has yet to attend the Hong Kong delegation's meetings. 'I always asked Hu Jintao to come, but every time it was [NPC chairman] Wu Bangguo who turned up. I really don't understand why,' he said. Although the Hong Kong NPC election has long been criticised by pan-democrats as a 'small-circle' election, Mr Ng said it was much more 'democratic' than elections of their mainland counterparts, who were often nominated by Communist Party committees. While calling for more transparency in the election process, he also lamented a long-standing anomaly in the NPC that saw officials occupy about 70 per cent of the seats, which was 'very unreasonable' as delegates were meant to pass laws and monitor the government. Added to this was the fact that bills or officials who apparently attracted much opposition were still approved or elected under the current system. As the only delegate from Hong Kong to have taken part in seven NPC terms (except for the three-year term beginning in 1975, each of the other NPC terms lasted for five years) and an avid writer, Mr Ng has published five memoirs on his experiences, and he hopes one day to publish a book on 'the secrets of the NPC'. He is working on it but says he will have to wait for a 'suitable time' for its publication.