China’s annual high-level political meetings opened Thursday with a minute’s silence for the victims of the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed over 4,600 lives in the country since emerging late last year.
Delayed by two months because of the outbreak, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) — a largely ceremonial advisory body — began its first session a day before the start of the country’s most important legislative congress.
2000+ delegates observe silence to commemorate victims in China
More than two thousand delegates from across the country bowed their heads in silence after singing the national anthem in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
The virus began in the central city of Wuhan before spreading around the world, infecting more than five million people and killing over 328,000.
#China's most important annual political meetings kick off, signaling the country secure anti-#COVID19 fight progress. All CPPCC members with masks, tough. Before the opening of meeting session, one-minute silence for COVID-19 victims https://t.co/1PJxnF7zFZ pic.twitter.com/1PaR0zdicF
— Qingqing_Chen (@qingqingparis) May 21, 2020
President Xi Jinping and the rest of the 25-member Politburo — the Communist Party’s top leadership body — were in the middle of the central stage, the only attendees not wearing face masks.
State television showed hundreds of masked delegates in black business suits walking up the steps of the Great Hall shortly before the session began.
Stringent measures in place to screen out virus carriers from conference
Known as the “Two Sessions”, the yearly gathering of the CPPCC and the National People’s Congress (NPC) involves thousands of delegates flocking to the capital for intensive meetings to discuss policy.
Originally scheduled for March, this year’s meetings will be squeezed into around seven days instead of the usual 10 days, according to state media.
Delegates were required to undergo multiple nucleic acid tests for the virus before taking part in the sessions, and must wear face masks throughout.
The number of journalists allowed into the Great Hall has been massively reduced with many press conferences and delegate interviews moved online as a virus prevention measure.
The NPC meeting: Agenda and salient points
On Friday the NPC will open in highly choreographed meetings to rubber-stamp bills, budgets and personnel moves.
Ministers will also reveal key economic targets, military budgets and other strategic priorities that shed a light on the thinking of Communist Party leaders, as China emerges from the devastating aftermath of the coronavirus.
Read more: Second wave of coronavirus cases hits China
Issues including epidemic prevention and control, poverty alleviation, Hong Kong policy and job creation are expected to be high on this year’s agenda.
China’s National day of mourning: commemorating the lost
China held a national day of mourning on April 4th to commemorate the 3,335 victims so far of the COVID-19 outbreak, including medical workers and police officers who sacrificed their lives during the battle against the epidemic in the country.
Flags flew at half-mast across China and at Chinese embassies around the world on April 4, which is the Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day. Public recreational activities are all suspended during the day in China.
Remembering China's national day of mourning on April 4.
Every victim of the coronavirus was honored as a martyr and the entire country observed 3 minutes of silence. pic.twitter.com/PHVQFamK2a
— Ian Goodrum (@isgoodrum) May 17, 2020
Chinese major network game service providers Netease and Tencent both suspended services this day.
President Xi Jinping led other Chinese leaders on Saturday to attend national mourning for martyrs who died fighting the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and Chinese compatriots who lost their lives in the outbreak.
They had white flowers pinned to the chest and paid a silent tribute in front of a national flag, flying at half-mast.
A three-minute period of silence was observed nationwide at 10 am. Air raid sirens and the horns of cars, trains and boats were also sounded.
In Wuhan, the hardest-hit city in China during the epidemic, all vehicles on the road stopped moving at 10 am for three minutes, during which all traffic lights were set into red.
Events to mourn the victims are also held around the country.