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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 September 2005, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
China parliament in public first
By Daniel Griffiths
BBC News, Beijing

A Beijing woman rests beside her sick child hoping for donations, 27 August 2005
China's leaders are alarmed by the growing gap between rich and poor
China's National People's Congress (NPC) has held a parliamentary session open to the public for the first time.

Twenty people, including civil servants, migrant workers and teachers from across China, were chosen to attend the historic session.

The debate focused on the sensitive subject of income tax.

The public hearing looked at tax reform, which is seen as a way of reducing China's widening gap between rich and poor.

CHINA'S NPC
China's parliament is in reality a rubber stamp for Party policy
Convened once a year
Nearly 3,000 delegates from across China attend

Earlier this year the government announced it was considering raising the threshold at which people have to start paying income tax, and invited people to apply to take part in the parliamentary debate.

The authorities in Beijing are worried that rising economic inequality could lead to growing unrest in China and are keen to show they are listening to the people.

But this event was more about symbolism than anything else.

Real decisions on important economic issues like taxation still rest with Beijing and that is unlikely to change anytime soon.


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