Reporter Ma Jing with the Wen Wei Po newspaper in Hong Kong found it easier for her to cover the ongoing "two sessions" of Beijing this year, as she could not only listen to the discussion of attendants, but raise questions.
The two sessions refer to the annual conferences of legislative and advisory bodies, in which economic and social development plans shall be deliberated and goals formulated.
"In the past, we were just allowed to listen to reports and discussions," recalled Ma, who was the first to ask questions on Sunday afternoon, when four deputy groups attending the first plenary session of the 13th Beijing People's Congress opened to journalists.
Ma's question was about government measures to check hiking prices, which was answered by officials with the Beijing municipal government joining discussion of the Chaoyang district group by listing measures to help low-income households.
"Their reply was frank and substantial, not beating around the bush," Ma appeared satisfied. "We are no longer standers-by. The questions to deputies brings us closer to Beijing's development."
"Apart from the question-and-answer, we also welcome journalists' application for interview, which we will try our best to arrange them," said Zhang Changchun, an official in charge of journalists covering Beijing's "two sessions".
According to Zhang, 195 journalists from 65 media organizations in 18 countries and regions outside the Chinese mainland, including those from Reuters, AFP, CNN and Kyodo News Service, had registered to cover the political events. The journalist number was 50 percent up from last year.
To facilitate their work, a media center providing Internet and fax services was set up. Each journalist could get a handbook upon registration with information like general introduction to China's political system, name list of deputies and schedule of the sessions.
"We welcome this opening up," said Ben Blanchard with Reuters, "The Olympic Games this year and Beijing's development have become topical issues of the whole world, which makes local 'two sessions' increasingly important to us."
Japanese reporter Joji Uramatsu was interested mostly in issues like preparations for the Olympic Games, food safety and price hikes. "More transparency of the 'two sessions' is helpful for us to know China better and also for China to present itself to the world with a better image."
New measures taken in this year's "two sessions" in Beijing mirrored the trend that China is on the track to free information flow, noted Jia Pinrong, vice head with the Public Relations and Public Opinion Institute of the Communication University of China.
According to the "Regulations on Reporting Activities in China by Foreign Journalists During the Beijing Olympic Games and the Preparatory Period" that took effect on Jan. 1, foreign journalists would not necessarily have to be accompanied or assisted by a Chinese official when they report in China. Also, they no longer need to apply to provincial foreign affairs offices for permission to report in all Chinese provinces.
"With its economic growth and social internationalization, China is becoming more confident to embrace the outside world," Jia said.
"It is a new step to answer questions from foreign media, which is worth trying," said Yu Wuyi, vice chairman of the People's Congress of Chaoyang District, a congregating area of foreigners in Beijing.
"We hope the developing Chaoyang would attract more attention from foreign media," he said.