Eradicating poverty and curbing pollution will be two key goals for China's top advisory body

Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), returns to his seat after his speech at the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People i
Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), returns to his seat after his speech at the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 3, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - China's top political advisory body on Saturday (March 3) singled out alleviating poverty and curbing pollution as two of its key goals for the year, part of efforts to help build a "moderately prosperous society in all respects".

Mr Yu Zhengsheng, chair of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said this was the advisory body's "main job" and that it would "strengthen key sectors and weak areas" to achieve results.

He was delivering the CPPCC's annual work report to more than 2,000 members gathered in the Great Hall of the People.

"Considering the new historic juncture in China's development... we will contribute our well-thought advice and real efforts towards realising the first centenary goal," said Mr Yu, referring to a goal set by President Xi Jinping to eradicate poverty and build a moderately prosperous society by 2020.

As of October last year, some 30 million Chinese still lived in poverty, meaning their annual per capital income is less than 2,300 yuan (S$478).

Mr Yu pointed out that in the past five years, CPPCC members have conducted studies on the ground in 17 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, including some of the remotest areas, to learn more about the poor and the problems they face.

CPPCC spokesman Wang Guoqing said at a press conference on Friday that China has lifted 66 million people out of poverty in the past five years.

Mr Wang told of how two CPPCC members visited a villager in eastern Gansu province in his "yaodong", or cave home, to talk to him and find out whether poverty alleviation measures were working.

"They didn't have an entourage, and they didn't drive into the village, they just (walked) in like this," Mr Wang said, adding that such visits helped CPPCC members learn intimately about the troubles and worries of the poor.

On the environment, Mr Yu said on Saturday the CPPCC has adopted new methods of oversight. To illustrate his point, he said CPPCC members made both scheduled and surprise visits to the Tengger desert, where industrial firms were dumping unprocessed waste.

Environmental protection is a key focus for the Chinese government, and is expected to be discussed at length during this year's National People's Congress (NPC) sessions. A clean environment is a crucial part of Mr Xi's pledge to build a "beautiful China".

One of the constitutional amendments the NPC is expected to debate when it convenes on Monday has to do with expanding the role of the State Council, or China's Cabinet, to include ecological advancement.