by Xinhua writer Wu Chen
From the very beginning, people have sensed a strong "smell of gunpowder" in and out of this year's sessions of National People's Congress (NPC) and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, as participants and the public have been involved in heated debates on some topics.
On March 7, NPC deputy Lu Zushan, also governor of Zhejiang Province, questioned deputies from local education departments, demanding "I'm asking you, do you want to reform (on education system) and dare you?"
In response, Wang Jianhua, Party chief of Shaoxing University in Zhejiang, said "we need a relative policy to ensure the reform. We don't have decision-making power, and all we can do is obey official orders."
Other proposals and remarks by NPC deputies and CPPCC members, such as "all private Internet bars should be closed" "people who cannot afford to buy houses shouldn't blame the government" and "the success of medical reform will be a tragedy for the nation's people" have been bombarded with criticism by netizens.
Many netizens questioned "on whose behalf?" the deputies were acting.
Li Yingfeng, a newspaper commentator, said NPC deputies and CPPCC members from different social classes, experiences, and educational backgrounds would definitely stand on their own side to defend their interests.
"Part of their expression may be unpleasant to hear, however it will draw public attention to certain problems and help us to find a solution to them," Li said, adding that freedom of speech is a basic requirement in a democratic society.
In fact, other deputies are also making suggestions on behalf of their own group. For example, migrant worker Kang Houming suggested the income of migrant workers should be increased and more technical training should be organized; professor Zhou Hongyu said education should not be for profit, but for the public good; and Wang Xiaolin asked for more attention to be paid to low-income groups of retirees.
Wang Yukai, professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the further development of China's economy and the deepening of reform and the opening up, citizens' awareness of individual rights and interests has been enhanced and different social classes have been gradually formed.
Wang said the clashes of different viewpoints showed the "interest games between different groups being held during the two sessions."
"It's good for decision-makers to hear voices from different sides and balance interest requests through fair policies," he said.
He said the public have attached more importance to the "two sessions" and have a high expectation that the meetings can actually solve their problems, which are really affecting the country's development.
How to ensure every interest group has its deputy in the congress has become a new question for the NPC.
In recent years, people have found that vested interest groups, including real estate agents, still gain more influence in the "two sessions," which is surely not good for common people wishing to have their voices heard.
The situation may be changed in next year's meeting, as a draft amendment to the Electoral Law, granting equal representation in people's congresses to rural and urban people, has been placed on the agenda at the NPC annual session for deliberation.
Experts hoped more common people would be elected as deputies in the future.