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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 March 2008, 11:00 GMT
In pictures: China's NPC opens

A Chinese paramilitary officer is silhouetted near the Great Hall of the People where the annual National People's Congress is held, 5 March 2008

There was a heavy security presence in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on the opening day of the National People's Congress.

Delegates and journalists crowd the square outside Beijing's Great Hall of the People, 5 March 2008

The 12-day event is attended by nearly 3,000 delegates, who come from right across China.

Delegates at the opening session of the National People's Congress (5th March)

The country's 55 minority groups are all represented, as are the armed forces. Delegates also come from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Ethnic minority delegates ( 5th March)

The headdresses and embroidered finery of the minority groups add much-needed colour to the conference, amid the black suits of other delegates.

Chinese President Hu Jintao (L) and top leaders applaud as Premier Wen Jiabao (R) steps away to deliver his speech

The highlight of the opening day was when Premier Wen Jiabao (right) delivered his annual report on the work of the government.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao appears on a big screen (L) while delivering his speech to top leaders and delegates (AFP)

Mr Wen stressed how much China had achieved in recent years - but he also expressed concern over inflation, particularly rising food prices.

Delegates attending the opening session of the annual National People's Congress  5th March

Some analysts dismiss the congress as a body that rubber-stamps the decisions of the top leaders, but others say there may be room for manoeuvre behind the scenes.

A Chinese police officer tries to stop a protester holding up a banner in front of journalists waiting to enter the Great Hall of the People

Protesters outside the hall often use NPC meetings as an opportunity to air their grievances against the government.

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