Coronavirus-hit China postpones annual Parliament session for first time in decades

The third annual session of the 13th NPC, one of China's biggest political events, was originally planned to open on March 5 in Beijing.

BEIJING: In an unprecedented move, China on Monday postponed the annual session of Parliament from March 5 due to the coronavirus outbreak, state media reported as the country grapples with the deadly virus that has claimed over 2,500 lives and infected more than 77,000 people.
The ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) showcases its political clout in the annual Parliament session.
The country's top legislature, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), met here and approved a draft decision on postponing the NPC's annual session due to coronavirus, China Global Television Network TV reported.
The third annual session of the 13th NPC, one of China's biggest political events, was originally planned to open on March 5 in Beijing.
The death toll climbed to 2,592 with 150 new fatalities while the total number of confirmed cases increased to over 77,000, health officials said on Monday.
Meanwhile, the China-World Health Organisation (WHO) joint expert team visited Hubei Province, epicentre of the 'COVID-19' outbreak over the weekend to conduct field investigations, health officials said.
Every year, the NPC and the top advisory body Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which together have over 5,000 members in their ranks, meet during March to approve the government's annual agenda including the budget.
But the coronavirus outbreak continues to be a major concern.
The NPC and CPPCC together constitute the biggest political event in China.
Though Chinese officials claim that the intensity of the epidemic is coming down, the ruling CPC is averse to expose thousands of its top cadre to the virus which has not been brought under control.
The postponement of the NPC, which is often viewed as a rubber-stamp parliament for its routine approval of the CPC proposals, is regarded as an unprecedented move.
The CPC considers the two sessions as a significant political event to adopt its national agenda, including the annual budgets and formulate new laws.
Chinse analysts said the postponement of the two sessions is very unusual in the history of the Party, which has not been seen since the country's reform and opening-up, state-run Global Times reported.
It's also unknown when the two sessions will be rescheduled as it depends on how the epidemic prevention and control work evolves, especially when there has been no inflexion point of the epidemic in sight yet, Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of the Research Centre for Government Integrity-Building at Peking University, told the paper.
The proposal to delay the sessions indicates that the central government puts epidemic prevention and control work as its top priority, showing its highly responsible stance not only to the Chinese people but also to the world, Zhuang told the daily earlier.
According to the Constitution and relevant laws, the NPC meets once a year and is convened by the NPC Standing Committee.
The decision to postpone the session is taken by the NPC Standing Committee.



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