By Kim Kyung-hoon
In China, where the Constitution says “All power in the People’s Republic of China belongs to the People”, the National People’s Congress (NPC) is one of the most important political events in the country.
Over 2,000 various delegates including political leaders, military generals, CEOs, celebrities and even Tibetan monks gathered in the Great Hall of the People to represent their districts and discuss how to shape the future of 1.35 billion Chinese people. In theory, the NPC is the great lawmaking power in China and plays a similar role to the parliaments of its neighboring countries, Japan and South Korea, where I have worked as a Reuters photographer for the last 11 years.
Instead what I saw at this year’s two-week-long NPC in China was very different from what I witnessed in the neighboring countries, even though these three North Asian countries have been closely connected geographically, historically, economically and culturally for thousands of years.
In South Korea and Japan, demonstrators speak out with flashy banners and loudspeakers around the Parliament building. What you will encounter around the NPC is not people speaking out but instead the watchful eyes of hundreds of security officers and surveillance cameras gazing upon you on full alert.
Even though this congress is held for the people, access by ordinary people to the fortress-like venue is strictly controlled. Under heightened security carried out by paramilitary police, SWAT teams, plain-clothed police and surveillance cameras, it is clearly out of the question to hold even a small-sized rally. Inside the venue is no different from the outside. Countless security officers in the same black suits and short hairstyle stand guard like motionless robots and are seen throughout the hall.