Rubbing elbows like one of the legislators

Updated: 2013-03-07 08:07

By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)

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Rubbing elbows like one of the legislators

By no means am I a national legislator, but over the past decade I've been enjoying some of the "perks" of a lawmaker, like meeting at the Great Hall of the People in early March each year.

Here at the grandiose building, about 3,000 deputies to the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, discuss and deliberate on legislation and national policies as an almost equal number of reporters chase them with sometimes bewildering questions.

It is a venue, I observe, that can best test the survival capabilities of a journalist.

On Tuesday morning when Premier Wen Jiabao was delivering his state-of-the-nation speech at the opening of this year's NPC session, I strolled on the second floor in search of someone to interview.

There I saw Hu Shuhua, who left the meeting room for refreshment. My homework the day before did not include him so I knew nothing about him and had no grounds to start our talk.

In a few minutes, my smartphone had found many things about Hu. He has been a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference - the country's top political advisory body - for 10 years, and most of all he is an avid proponent of technological innovation.

"Professor Hu, you have been calling for national efforts to ingeniously develop automobiles since 1999. Were you frustrated when you heard the premier again urge the building of an innovation-driven nation in his Government Work Report?"

Hu looked surprised. His motion about independent car development has never materialized, and China is churning out cars in a multitude of foreign makes, with a paltry few developed here.

"Have we met before?" he spluttered. I smiled, without sporting my palm-sized trickery.

Looking back five years, I worked at the Great Hall in tandem with my colleagues at the newsroom during the annual event. I made phone calls, dictating to them telegraph-sized stories to be posted on our newspaper's website as early as possible.

This year, our colleagues use WeChat - known locally as weixin, an app that allows users to send mobile messages free of charge on Wi-Fi - to communicate and cooperate.

Our reporters log into the same platform, sharing story ideas and photograph opportunities, and sometimes good jokes.

On almost every opening day of the annual NPC session, I stand for hours in advance with my packed list of questions at the north gate of the Great Hall through which ministers and other dignitaries usually enter.

Surprisingly, I could always pinpoint the very persons I wanted to interview in the crowd.

For example, I talked there with an aerospace industry president and an environmental minister, to name only two, capturing such scoops as the number of space launches China planned for the year and the latest package of policies and budgets to clean up the country's polluted rivers.

As ministers sometimes enter the hall in droves, reporters would sometimes congregate at one corner, surrounding one or two officials.

I usually avoid such crowded places. I once saw a journalist knocked flat on the ground by a cameraman with a video recorder.

In addition to needing physical strength, I have found sometimes that reporting at the great hall requires mental strength, especially when you find that a few national legislators you interviewed at the Great Hall of the People would never come back to the venue.

For example, I interviewed Zheng Xiaoyu, former chief of the State Food and Drug Administration, on the first floor of the hall around 2005, as he touted his agency's measures to ensure food safety.

He was executed in 2007 for taking bribes.

(China Daily 03/07/2013 page8)