China Communist Party officially opens 18th congress
BEIJING - China's ruling Communist Party kicked off its all-important national congress on Thursday morning, an event set to produce the country's new generational leadership for the next decade.
A somewhat lighthearted mood prevailed as a total 2,268 delegates started arriving and posing for photos outside the Great Hall of the People in capital Beijing despite the heavy security and chilly weather.
But the 18th Party Congress is a serious affair. Held every five years, the event will bid goodbye to outgoing President Hu Jintao and his leadership team, take stock of the country's progress under his charge since 2002 and chart its future direction under incoming leader Xi Jinping.
The real political excitement comes a day after the congress ends next Wednesday when Mr Xi's new leadership line-up will be unveiled to the world.
Reuters reported that security was especially tight on Thursday around the Great Hall and Tiananmen Square next door, the scene of pro-democracy protests in 1989 that were crushed by the military.
Police dragged away a screaming protester as the Chinese national flag was raised at dawn.
Party spokesman Cai Mingzhao said on Wednesday there would be greater efforts at promoting "inner-party democracy", which means it would encourage greater debate within the party but also means one-party rule was inviolate, reported Reuters.
"The leading position of the Communist Party in China is a decision made by history and by the people," he said. "Political system reform must suit China's national reality. We have to unswervingly stick to the right path blazed by the party."
And that path includes censorship of the news and the Internet, reported Reuters.
Censors have deleted references to "Si Ba Da", a homonym that Chinese Internet users have used to discuss "Shi Ba Da", as the 18th Party Congress is called in short, on popular microblogs after users made comparisons between the US election and the party congress following US President Barack Obama's re-election, said Reuters.