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FACTBOX-China's annual meeting of parliament

Source: Reuters - Thu, 27 Feb 2014 21:00 GMT
Author: Reuters
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Feb 28 (Reuters) - Around 3,000 delegates to the annual meeting of China's parliament, the National People's Congress, will meet in Beijing's Great Hall of the People on March 5 for a session expected to last around nine days.

Here is an overview of China's top legislature and this year's meeting:

ISSUES:

Exact details of what will be discussed or announced, including economic growth targets and the budget, are kept tightly under wraps ahead of the session. However, government sources, state media and Chinese academics say the following items are likely to be on the agenda for discussion, even if no firm decisions are reached:

- On the opening day, Premier Li Keqiang will announce key economic targets in his first government work report since assuming office a year ago. The annual economic growth target is widely expected to be kept at 7.5 percent.

- A deepening of economic reform, such as fiscal system reforms to help rein in local government debt piles, as well efforts to gradually free up interest rates and the currency regime.

- A long-awaited deposit insurance system to pave the way for freeing up bank deposit rates; a widening of the yuan's trading band while experimenting with opening up the capital account at a free-trade zone in Shanghai.

- More restructuring of ministries and government departments, including granting the undersized environment ministry new powers over resources, possibly allowing it to veto future projects, and more muscle to punish polluters.

- Clipping the wings of state giants to create more breathing space for private firms, an important economic driving force.

- Efforts to deepen the fight against deeply-engrained corruption.

FUNCTIONS:

- The NPC meets annually in March to pass bills, approve the budget and endorse personnel nominations.

- The NPC is generally considered a rubber stamp for the ruling Communist Party's policies and decisions, although debate on certain issues like pollution can be lively.

MEMBERSHIP:

- The chairman is Zhang Dejiang, a former vice-premier and the third-most senior person in the party after President Xi Jinping and Premier Li.

- The nearly 3,000 delegates attending the session represent China's 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, as well as Hong Kong, Macau and the military. There are also delegates for self-ruled Taiwan, made up of defectors and their descendents. They serve five-year terms.

VOTES:

- Votes almost always follow the Communist Party's wishes and pass by an overwhelming majority. But delegates have historically cast no votes to show frustration over issues such as corruption and crime.

- All citizens over the age of 18 are technically allowed to vote for delegates and be elected to the NPC, but most delegates are hand-picked by local-level officials.

MEETINGS:

- Parliament meets in the Great Hall of the People to the west of Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing. Built in under a year in 1959 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic, the main auditorium can seat 10,000 people.

- Parliament's largely ceremonial advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, meets in parallel with the NPC. It is made up of business magnates, artists, monks, non-communists and other representatives of broader society, but it has no legislative power.

Sources: Reuters, Chinese state media. (Writing by Ben Blanchard)

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