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China's Legislative Advisory Body Opens Annual Meeting in Beijing


An advisory body to China's national legislature has opened its annual meeting in Beijing to draw attention to the country's social ills. The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference brings together Chinese political experts, scholars, and celebrities to raise issues and make suggestions to Chinese legislators. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) has no power to enact laws or set policies. But the more than 2,000 delegates who gathered for opening ceremonies Saturday at Beijing's Great Hall of the People do serve a social function.

Like the legislators they advise, the delegates are selected and approved by the Communist Party rather than by the public. The leaders of the party and the government, including President and Party Chairman Hu Jintao, were present Saturday for the opening ceremonies.

The delegates are meant to represent the voices of China's various social, political, and ethnic groups when making suggestions and complaints to legislators.

David Zweig is an expert on Chinese society and politics at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He says the advisory body is mainly for propaganda purposes, but it also serves to bring attention to some of the problems in Chinese society.

"The people that the party invites to the CPPCC reflect, I think, opinion-makers and people of some stature within society," he said. "So, they have a chance to reflect, or sort of represent, the interests in society, and make the views and the concerns of people in general known."

China's official Xinhua news agency describes the advisory body as a "patriotic united front" of the Chinese people, and an open forum where the ruling Communist Party and non-communist groups and people discuss state affairs freely and on an "equal footing."

The CPPCC meets once a year in conjunction with China's legislature, the National People's Congress, which opens its annual session here Monday.

CPPCC delegates will meet for 12 days to make proposals to legislators on how to tackle the dark side of China's fast economic growth.

China is facing a growing wealth gap, under-funded health and educational systems, severe environmental problems, and widespread official corruption that threatens the legitimacy of the Communist Party. The delegates' thoughts on these and other issues will be passed on to the NPC for consideration.

Among other things, NPC legislators are expected to approve a long-debated law granting private property the same status as state-owned property. They are also expected to approve a law unifying the level of taxes paid by foreign and domestic enterprises.

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