Beijing smog clears before start of rubber-stamp parliament

Actor and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference adviser Jackie Chan in Beijing. photograph: reuters

Actor and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference adviser Jackie Chan in Beijing. photograph: reuters


Traffic was restricted around Tiananmen Square and Beijing’s main thoroughfares, security was tight at the intersections and the skies were miraculously clear of smog as China’s elite cadres and top celebrities gathered in the city to attend the Communist Party’s annual rubberstamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC).

Kicking off on Tuesday, the NPC will take place in the Great Hall of the People, in a room bedecked with red flags and communist paraphernalia, with 3,000 delegates giving enthusiastic and lengthy applause to the various pieces of legislation put before them for their approval.

The parliament is largely a formality and is not expected to yield any surprises.

However, the NPC will complete a once-in-a-decade power transition, confirming Xi Jinping as president. He has already been named general secretary of the ruling Communist Party and head of the military.

At the weekend, Xi made a speech at the elite party school condemning official corruption and urging the country’s 80-million-plus party members to remember the teachings of Karl Marx and Mao Zedong.

“Only if the capabilities of all party members unceasingly continue to strengthen can ‘the dream’ of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people be realised,” he said.

Before the parliament is a meeting of an advisory body that offers “suggestions” to the parliament, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. This year, this will highlight China’s efforts to boost its “soft power”. The panel of 2,000 advisers includes former basketball legend Yao Ming and the Hong Kong kung-fu and comedy legend Jackie Chan.

“I have no way of speaking now, we don’t have enough time to elaborate,” Chan, star of Police Story and Rush Hour, said as he arrived for the panel. Although he is a legend in Hong Kong he has annoyed some fans with his regular pro-Beijing pronouncements, such as calling for restrictions on the right to protest.

Wearing a black traditional-style suit and glasses, Chan was joined en route to the meeting by author Mo Yan, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in October.

Mo is reviled by Chinese dissidents, who say as vice-chairman of the state-backed China Writers’ Association he is a stooge of the party.

Another celebrity taking part in the consultative conference is Chen Kaige, director of the Oscar-nominated movie Farewell My Concubine, who complained that Beijing’s appalling smog is taking its toll on creativity.

“Cornered by the terrible weather, I have nowhere to go – I am unable to focus on my artistic creation,” he told the Xinhua news agency. Pollution is expected to feature as a topic at the NPC.