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All Eyes Turn to NPC, CPPCC Sessions

Coal miner Li Weiqing has some advice for members and deputies arriving in Beijing for the start today of the Third Session of the National Committee of the 10th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) on Saturday.

"It will be good if the people at the top make really strong, enforced policies to protect us at the bottom, like us coal miners," he said.

Li, who is also an alcoholic, digs coal at a mine in Huaibei, in east China's Anhui Province. He is seeking help for his drinking problem, an addiction not uncommon among miners who risk their lives on a daily basis to keep the country running. "One has to be tough to lead the life of a miner, and sometimes alcohol helps."

He said that whenever news of yet another mining tragedy reaches them, the dread and fear he and his colleagues share as they toil underground increase.

Those working above ground share Li's hopes. A fairer society with enforceable laws to ensure safety and equality is on the majority of want lists.

During their sessions, the NPC and CPPCC will discuss how to tackle such problems as unemployment, industrial safety and the wealth gap. Building a society in which all live in harmony with their rights protected is high on the government's agenda.

Li Jinyin, a masseuse working at a small hair salon in Beijing, said she wishes for a society that allows upward mobility, where through her own efforts she can realize her ambitions. "I want to live in an apartment of my own," said the 27-year-old migrant worker from Dalian, in northeast China's Liaoning Province. She now pays 400 yuan (US$48) a month rent to share a cramped 18-square-meter basement room with three other young women.

She also expects an economic revival in her hometown, which is part of China's old industrial heartland. "I won't stay in Beijing if I can find a job that pays more than 600 yuan (US$73) a month in Dalian. Being uprooted from my hometown creates a lot of problems. Like many young women around me, I cannot find someone appropriate to marry in Beijing."

Yang Weimin, a 67-year-old farmer in Xiangxiang, central China's Hunan Province, said he struggles to pay more than 300 yuan (US$36) a month -- a large part of his income -- on medicine. He wants government help for himself and for others in his village. Such sentiments are echoed nationwide.

Zhen Lidan, who runs a small business in Beijing, said he expects topics like the real estate developers' abuse of power over consumers to be discussed. "I made complaints to developers and they replied, 'It's not your place to talk about such things. Go to the People's Congress,'" he said.

Beijing, as host city of the high-profile political events, has other important issues to focus on as the sessions get under way, such as ensuring a secure environment. For example, air sports involving paragliders, model airplanes and hot-air balloons have been banned between March 1 and 16 to guard against possible terror attacks.

China's public security authority said chatrooms and forums of major Chinese Internet portals will be monitored 24 hours a day during the two weeks of the sessions. Any messages submitted by Internet users will go through strict censoring and filtering before they appear on the Internet.

Officials from the Beijing Production Safety Supervision Bureau said that since January, stringent inspections have been conducted in transportation centers, coal mines, public places, residential communities, construction sites and business districts.

The bureau's Deputy Chief Li Jianwei said that five inspection teams will go to almost every corner in the city "hunting for hidden troubles that may be turned into various mishaps or disasters."

Meanwhile, at least 650,000 volunteers wearing red armbands will join the police to patrol lanes, roads and streets throughout Beijing to help tighten security during the sessions.

(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency March 3, 2005)

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