BEIJING (AP) — The annual meeting of China’s legislature is a highly scripted affair, but quirky moments and offbeat details lurk around the edges and behind the scenes.
Hundreds of military officers serving as delegates march to the event in formation, carrying identical navy satchels, their red name tags dangling from delicate lengths of thread. A representative of an ethnic minority group wears a hat made from animal fur and antlers, walking to his seat amid a sea of delegates in staid business suits. And then there’s the paramilitary policeman at a far corner of a vast, blocked-off Tiananmen Square, waving green and red flags as he directs traffic at a parking area.
Nearly 6,000 delegates to the National People’s Congress and its advisory body descend on the hulking Great Hall of the People, the seat of China’s legislature, for approximately two weeks every March in what is known as the “Two Meetings.” The session is largely symbolic within China’s authoritarian one-party communist political system, but remains a highlight of the political calendar, during which the leadership sets out its goals and direction for the coming year.
Beyond that rubber stamp function, it’s a swirl of flashing cameras, crimson-clothed attendants and stern security guards helping maintain a tradition dating back decades to the founding of the People’s Republic of China.