China’s central government announced that the national Lianghui—when the Communist Party’s rubber-stamp legislature convenes to enact policies and agendas—will be held from May 21–22 in Beijing, after initially postponing the meeting because of the pandemic.
More than 5,000 delegates from around the country typically participate.
The Lianghui, which translates to “two sessions” in reference to the rubber-stamp Congress and its advisory body that meet in Beijing annually, is usually held in March. But as the virus outbreak engulfed the country, the Party in February postponed the meeting.
In response to the Lianghui dates, which were announced on April 29, Beijing and nearby cities announced that they would downgrade their emergency response levels to the virus as of April 30. But on April 30, Beijing municipal health officials rolled out new prevention measures for all medical facilities in the city, indicating that the outbreak in the nation’s capital remained severe.
While Beijing authorities have reported zero new infections in the past few days and kept silent about the city’s outbreak, local residents and internal documents have indicated that officials have been on high alert about tracking close contacts of confirmed patients.
“The regime wants to show people that the outbreak is under control all across the country by holding the Lianghui in May,” said U.S.-based China affairs commentator Tang Jingyuan. “The regime also wants to show that it achieved success in the war against the virus.”
In previous interviews, Chinese citizens said they didn’t believe the outbreak had been contained, saying that as long as the Lianghui wasn’t being held, it meant Party officials were afraid the virus still had the potential to spread and didn’t want to risk becoming infected during a large gathering.
Soon after the central government’s announcement, several provincial governments, such as Yunnan and Sichuan, announced the schedules for their local Lianghui.
Each administrative level of government has a local branch of the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which would hold meetings before the national Lianghui.
In January, some provinces, such as Shandong, Guangdong, and Hubei—the province where the virus’s ground zero of Wuhan is located—held their local Lianghui before the virus outbreak spiraled out of control.
When Wuhan authorities locked down the city on Jan. 23, Hunan, Guangdong, and Zhejiang provinces also launched a level-one (highest) emergency response to the epidemic.
China enacted a national public health emergency response system in 2006, with four levels of response, level one meaning that the central government will take the lead to address a crisis.
One after another, regional governments increased their response level to level one in late January.
But since Feb. 21, regional governments downgraded their emergency response levels after local authorities reported fewer new infections.
The Epoch Times has been provided internal documents that show regional governments routinely underreport virus data.
Soon after the emergency response level in Beijing was downgraded to level two, the city’s health commission issued a request to all medical and health institutions in the city to “prevent three things: prevent against any loosening of controls, any loopholes, and an outbreak bouncing back.”
The notice required all hospitals to monitor closely potential infections, control the distance between visitors and patients, forbid staff from taking business trips to medium and high-risk regions, and to only use 70 percent of their capacity to maintain social distancing rules. In addition, medical staff shouldn’t gather to chat.
The commission also detailed requirements upon encountering suspected virus patients, such as isolating the person in a separate room immediately, not allowing any visitors, and using a negative-pressure vehicle if the patient needs to be transported to another facility.
Another metropolis near Beijing, the city of Tianjin, and the nearby Hebei Province also downgraded their emergency response to level two on April 30.
On April 29, the city’s health commission also required residents to wear masks in public spaces, wash hands frequently, and not participate in social gatherings.
Chen Bei, the deputy Party boss of Beijing’s city government, also told authorities to tightly monitor the movement of people in residential compounds.
She explained that local residents must use an entrance pass to enter their residential compounds. Family members or friends can only visit if they possess a green health code—a mobile app that determines whether a person is virus-free, based on users inputting their health data.
Checkpoints at the city’s major transportation hubs must also be tightly monitored, she said, including at airports, train stations, intercity bus stations, and highways. Police are required to check every vehicle, every passenger’s identity, health code, and screen their body temperature.
Chen also advised Beijing residents not to take any business trips or vacations overseas. “[The government will] tightly monitor the people who return from overseas,” she warned.
Anyone arriving in Beijing from overseas must be placed under observation at quarantine centers for 14 days, then self-isolate at home for another seven days. Any travelers coming from Hubei province and other high or medium risk regions—such as northeastern China, where recent outbreaks occurred—must self-isolate at home for 14 days. These people also need to take nucleic acid tests to determine whether they have the virus.
Travelers from low-risk regions would not need to be quarantined, but must fill out a health form, have their body temperatures taken, and health code scanned upon arrival.
Beijing eased its quarantine rules from previously requiring all travelers arriving in Beijing to quarantine—likely to accommodate travelers who will soon travel to Beijing for the Lianghui.