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Coronavirus Live Updates: At Political Pageant, China Aims to Show It Won’t be Cowed

Coronavirus Live Updates: At Political Pageant, China Aims to Show It Won’t be Cowed
Amid pomp and propaganda in Beijing, the pandemic is weighing on efforts to restart the economy. Britain said it would quarantine everyone flying into the country, including citizens.

There were calls for new protests in Hong Kong after China said it planned to impose stringent new security legislation on the territory.
Chinese leaders and delegates at the opening session of National People’s Congress in Beijing on Friday.

The pandemic hovers over China’s once-a-year political congress.

Coronavirus cases in China have slowed to a fraction of what they were in January, but the pandemic was weighing heavily on the country’s politics and economy as top officials began a tightly choreographed legislative pageant on Friday.In one sense, the National People’s Congress is a chance for China’s leaders, who won broad public support for curbing the spread of the outbreak, to push back against growing international criticism over their early missteps in Wuhan. President Xi Jinping has described his government’s containment efforts as a “people’s war” against the virus.A key policy goal of the conference — pressing an offensive to subdue the pro-democracy opposition in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese territory — also suggests that Mr. Xi’s government is determined to show it will not be politically cowed by the crisis. China announced on Thursday that it planned to impose stringent new security legislation on Hong Kong in the coming months.For one, his government faces a new outbreak in Jilin, a northeastern province of 27 million people that sits near China’s borders with Russia and North Korea. Jilin has been put under a Wuhan-style lockdown as it has reported an outbreak that is still small — about 130 cases and two deaths — but has the potential to become a “big explosion,” experts say. The Congress agenda includes proposals to improve the country’s hospitals and disease surveillance system, and delegates opened the proceedings with 60 seconds of silence for the more than 4,600 people who have died from the virus in the country.Then there is the economy, which shrank in the first three months of the year compared with a year earlier — the first decline in the modern era. On Friday, Chinese officials declined to set an economic growth target for this year and outlined plans to ramp up government spending.“At present, the epidemic has not yet come to an end, while the tasks we face in promoting development are immense,” Premier Li Keqiang told lawmakers as the National People’s Congress opened in Beijing on Friday. “We must redouble our efforts to minimize the losses resulting from the virus.”The virus also presented challenges for organizers of the Congress, which is a logistical nightmare even in normal times.Delegates have been made to take nucleic acid tests for the virus before being allowed to travel to Beijing. Masks will be required, windows will be opened to improve ventilation, and most journalists must follow proceedings and join news conferences by video link.

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