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Chinese parliamentary sessions 2014i

The annual Chinese "lianghui" of 2014, or plenary meetings of China's top legislative and consultative bodies, the National People's Congress and the National People's Consultative Conference, will take place in Beijing in early to mid-March. The NPC sessions are scheduled to begin on March 5, and the CPPCC meetings to commence on March 3. 

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Rebalancing China's economy from being capital-intensive and export-driven to a more sustainable consumer-led model is tricky. Premier Li Keqiang acknowledged that yesterday at the close of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress.

At least a dozen popular public WeChat accounts - some followed by hundreds of thousands subscribers - were shut down or suspended yesterday. Some of the accounts were operated by popular columnists, such as Xu Danei and Luo Changping, or by online news outlets, such as NetEase.

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Beijing is tightening scrutiny of government debt and the shadow banking system to contain risk, Premier Li Keqiang said yesterday. He said Beijing had been "highly attentive" to financial and debt risks, and set a timetable for implementing rules to stop banks overexpanding.

Registrations of private companies rose 30 per cent from a year earlier, indicating that "cutting red tape and delegating power were powerful tools to boost the market's vitality and social creativity", Premier Li Keqiang said yesterday.

Li Keqiang breezed through a tame and uneventful press conference, thanks largely to the absence of the uncomfortable questions often foisted on his predecessors.

Ties between China and the US would remain strong as long as both sides kept the focus on their common interests instead of the differences, Premier Li Keqiang has said.

The official economic growth target will be flexible as long as it can ensure stable jobs, Premier Li Keqiang told an international audience in the clearest message to date by a top leader about the nation's willingness to tolerate slower growth.

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Most of the National People's Congress - dominated by the Communist Party and described by critics as a rubber stamp parliament - usually vote overwhelmingly in favour of Beijing's policies. But analysts said the administration was still enjoying its "honeymoon period".

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Premier Li Keqiang was not asked about the graft investigation into former security tsar Zhou Yongkang after reporters were warned against raising the subject.

Premier Li Keqiang promised continued support for Hong Kong amid "comprehensive deepening" of reforms on the mainland, but he evaded questions about the city's electoral reform and autonomy.

Attempts to introduce anti-terrorism laws could create further problems if they fail to define the powers of various enforcement agencies or strike a balance between battling extremism and protecting civil rights, legal experts say.

The National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) concluded its annual plenum in Beijing yesterday. The 10-day meeting saw members submit 5,875 proposals, of which 4,982 were formally accepted, the committee said.

Wang Qishan , the secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and a member of the supreme Politburo Standing Committee, vowed "zero tolerance" for ethical violations and abuse by the watchdog's inspectors.

The 36 local deputies to the National People's Congress tabled an amendment that would raise the penalty for buyers of children to 10 years in jail.

A group of academics with the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) have openly criticised the "weak" role of the advisory body, which they said had become a mere accessory to the National People's Congress.

Apart from a minute's silence at the start of the National People's Congress (NPC) for victims of the deadly March 1 attack at Kunming's main train station, everything has been business as usual at the once-a-year parliamentary meeting in Beijing.

The number of terrorism attacks has increased in recent years. In the latest incident, on March 1, a group of knife-wielding assailants staged a bloody attack in Kunming railway station, leaving 29 civilians dead and 143 injured.

A Tibet standing committee member said the Kunming railway attack would not affect the autonomous region and sought to emphasise stability there - despite a track record of unrest and self-immolations against Chinese rule.

National People's Congress (NPC) Chairman Zhang Dejiang vowed to push forward legislation in areas of key public concern, including pollution and oversight of officials' conduct.

Signs that the central government's fight against excess is in full force were evident at this year's toned-down parliamentary meetings. Some delegates were asked by organisers to bring their own toothbrushes, slippers and daily necessities instead of relying on hotels to provide them. Many delegations from the provinces and cities chose to forgo chartered flights and travelled by coach or train to Beijing.

The official UN theme for this year's International Women's Day is "equality for women is progress for all", but even China's most powerful women say they still have not shattered the glass ceiling.

More companies should be allowed to default on their bonds, an external supervisor at the Bank of China said, a day after a solar-cell maker became the first to do so.

While China was unsurpassed in the quantity of its trade, the nation must now improve the quality of its goods, Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said yesterday in Beijing, where the National People's Congress is holding its annual meeting.

The Criminal Code currently treats sex with boys, whether consensual or not, as child molestation, which is punishable by up to five years in jail. Sex with a girl under the age of 14, or rape, carries a jail term of up to 10 years, unless severe violence or gang rape is involved.

The mainland's top Taiwan affairs negotiator, Chen Deming, said he had "high hopes" for a suggestion that Xi Jinping and Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou meet at a "third-party venue" outside the mainland and Taiwan.

Former Hong Kong security minister Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong called on the central government yesterday to consider creating paths for the city's youth to pursue careers in the country's armed forces and diplomatic corps.

New World chairman Henry Cheng Kar-shun, a colleague of Lee on the standing committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said in Beijing yesterday: "If people other [than HKU] would like to do it, it can help [the government] understand people's thinking."

Agriculture Minister Han Changfu says there is no reason to fear genetically modified food and that he regularly eats it himself. The statement was the most public effort yet by a senior mainland official to dispel anxiety about the safety of GM foods.

Xinjiang party chief Zhang Chunxian said the newly formed National Security Commission, headed by President Xi Jinping, would play a leading role in maintaining security in the far-western region, where violence has recently flared amid ethnic tensions.

Shanxi party secretary Yuan Chunqing defended the province’s anti-corruption efforts as successful despite criticism from the Communist Party’s top disciplinary body.

A senior official said advances in regulating the organ transplant network should lead to more people signing up as voluntary donors, eliminating the need to harvest from executed prisoners.

The property market was a perennial focus of work reports delivered by Wen Jiabao when he was premier. During his decade-long tenure, National People's Congress attendees grew accustomed to hearing Wen criticise developers and pledge action to cool the overheated housing market.

Speculation there is a hidden meaning behind Premier Li Keqiang's omission of two of Hong Kong's key constitutional principles from his maiden work report deepened yesterday as Beijing's third-in-command cryptically advised Hongkongers to "cautiously interpret" the implications of the omission.