No flowers, gifts and keep speeches short: China parliament

BEIJING (REUTERS) - No flowers, no banquets, no gifts, no welcoming ceremonies and more importantly no useless long-winded speeches - Chinese state media on Wednesday laid out strict instructions for this year's annual meeting of parliament.

Normally a bastion of sycophancy, as the hand-picked delegates seek to out-compete each other in lauding the Communist Party, the official Xinhua news agency said that would change when the largely rubber stamp parliament meets in March.

Incoming president Xi Jinping has made cutting back on extravagance and waste a key theme of his first few weeks in office since becoming party chief in November, seeking to assuage anger at corruption and restore faith in the party.

"Deputies will be encouraged to focus on key issues and avoid empty talk," Xinhua cited a government statement as saying.

"There will be no flowers in deputies' hotel rooms and no welcoming ceremonies at the airport or railway stations," it added.

"All deputies will eat at buffets without expensive food or alcohol, while extravagant galas, gifts and performances will not be arranged." Unpopular traffic controls, which often include shutting down the busy main road which bisects Beijing and worsening already terrible traffic, will also be kept to a minimum, Xinhua said.

Parliament is unlikely to be dull this year in any case, as it will mark Mr Xi's formal assumption of the title of president and the beginning of a new generation of leaders taking on the reins of state power.

Mr Xi has already told officials to end their normal practice of giving stultifying speeches and pre-arranging fawning welcomes from local people and banished alcohol from military functions, as he tries to project a man-of-the-people image.

The party, which has shown no sign of giving up its tight grip on power, has struggled to contain public wrath at a seemingly endless stream of corruption scandals, particularly when officials are seen as abusing their posts to amass wealth.

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