China opens ceremonial congress, key annual political event
BEIJING (AP) — China is kicking off its rubberstamp parliament session, the main event on its political calendar, on Saturday. The gathering of nearly 3,000 delegates in Beijing's Great Hall of the People comes amid slowing growth in China's economy and tension over competing territorial claims in the South China Sea. The session will end March 16.
Here are some of the latest developments. All times are local.
9:00 a.m. Saturday
With delegates already in their seats, Chinese leaders file into the cavernous, red-carpeted Great Hall of the People to piped martial music for the opening of the National People's Congress. A bell rings at about 9:00 a.m. and congress Chairman Zhang Dejiang declares the session open, saying that 2,890 delegates are present, with 53 absent. All stand as the Chinese national anthem plays. Premier Li Keqiang then begins to deliver his speech.
An advance copy of Premier Li Keqiang's annual work report delivered to the legislature sets an economic growth target of 6.5-7 percent for this year, down from last year's goal of "about 7 percent."
China's economy has cooled steadily as the ruling Communist Party tries to replace a worn-out model based on trade and investment with self-sustaining growth driven by domestic consumption.
Crowds gathered near the sprawling Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing for a flag-raising ceremony ahead of the opening session of China's annual ceremonial legislature. The square itself is closed to the public, and onlookers watched from across a street amid tight security ahead of the session.