Chinese feverishly engaged in e-Congress as lawmakers, advisors "thunder"

13:13, March 11, 2010      

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Zhang Jianwei, a 22-year-old hairdresser in Beijing, has never been inside the Great Hall of the People and takes little interest in TV news or newspapers.

But events in the Hall have been the center of discussion during his meals and leisure time over the past week.

"I only read Internet news and gossip about the two meetings," Zhang says, referring to the dual annual sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee.

"There are plenty of comments and debates on the Internet that you cannot find in the newspapers," says Zhang, who works at a small barbershop in downtown Beijing. "If I find something interesting on the Internet, I will share and discuss it with my colleagues and customers."

A migrant worker from the northeastern Jilin Province who wishes to buy a small house in Beijing, Zhang's personal favorites are the "strange and shocking" remarks made by several NPC deputies and CPPCC members about skyrocketing housing prices in big cities.

Zhang Jieting, a CPPCC National Committee member and vice chairman of the Beijing Municipal Federation of Industry and Commerce, came under the spotlight when he said people in Beijing should buy houses as quickly as they could during a panel discussion of political advisors last Thursday.

"Otherwise you will regret it," he said.

Zhang even predicted the housing price in Beijing would soar to 40,000 yuan (about 5,900 U.S. dollars) per square meter within two years. Last year, Beijing saw the per capita disposable income of urban residents’ increase 9.7 percent to 26,738 yuan.

Asked "What about ordinary people?" Zhang answered loudly, "Ordinary people have their ways of living, the government has its way of living, and rich people have their ways of living, too," causing an immediate silence in the meeting room.

The remarks, later posted on the Internet in detail, sparked widespread criticism from netizens and topped headlines of popular online forums, as angry netizens complained it was "not acceptable" for a political advisor to say such words. Zhang has yet to respond.

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