Speaking her mind has never been a problem for Zhang Meiying, deputy chairwoman of the central committee of the 157,000-member China Democratic League, the biggest of the nation's non-Communist parties.
And there's plenty on her mind to speak about.
She regularly attends workshops held by the central government in which State leaders solicit non-Communist parties' opinions on hot topics covering every field.
"I sit face to face with the president and the premier; and I must be well-prepared for what I say and make a point," says the 61-year-old member of China's top advisory body - the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
Since 2003, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have held 18 conferences every year with the eight non-Communist parties, the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce and representatives of democratic institutions without party affiliation.
"I think I have to attribute my work efficiency and most of my sleepless nights to the 'great pressure' from the central government and the 18 face-to-face meetings," Zhang jokes.
Besides being the full-time deputy chairwoman of the league, Zhang, who was vice- president of Beijing Tumour Hospital from 1994 to 2001, is now an adjunct professor at Peking University Health Science Centre.
"My major is health science, but as a policy adviser, the topics covered are wide-ranging."
Reading on those subjects takes up most of her spare time. After returning home each day, she reads 20-plus newspapers and magazines covering various topics such as economics, agriculture, education and social issues.
"It keeps me informed and helps me focus on the most important things that people care about."
Every year, her league organizes study tours to assess such government projects as the bio-tech industry and food safety; and reports their findings to the central government.
"Our attendance (at the CPPCC sessions) is not for decoration for each party has to raise new suggestions on how to improve the central government's work."
In 2003, a proposal by the league calling on cities to set up a disaster response system attracted the attention of various departments; and the league was authorized to launch a pilot project in Harbin of Northeast China.
Last month, the State Council said in its report that a 106-item emergency contingency framework has taken shape; and formalizing a statute is high on the 2005 legislative agenda.
In the past year alone, her league raised 17 proposals and submitted in-depth reports to the central committee of the Chinese Communist Party on issues such as direct subsidy for farmers' grain production, training of personnel in higher education and applying high-technology to grain planting in remote regions.
All the 17 proposals received a response from the relevant departments of the central government - some have already been implemented and some listed on the 2005 working agenda.
"I think our views are valued. There need to be lots of different voices," Zhang says.
(China Daily March 12, 2005)