For the first time, China opts not to set GDP target
US and EU alarmed over Beijing’s proposed law to curb city’s autonomy amid Covid chaos
WITH its economy taking a huge hit from the coronavirus pandemic, China on Friday announced that it will not set a GDP growth target for this year. This is for the first time since 1990 that China is doing away with setting an annual economic growth target.
“This is because our country will face some factors that are difficult to predict in its development due to the great uncertainty regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and the world economic and trade environment,” Premier Li Keqiang said at the start of the country’s annual parliament meeting.
Analysts say Friday’s decision may have been taken as China is set to miss a key political goal of doubling its gross domestic product from the 2010 levels, which would be a blow to the ruling party’s pledge to provide prosperity.
Before the pandemic, China was widely expected to announce a growth target of about six per cent for the year.
However, with Covid-19 causing economic growth to shrink 6.8 per cent in the first quarter, the Chinese leadership felt such a target would no longer be feasible.
Premier Li said the country will instead “give priority to stabilising employment and ensuring living standards”.
Li also said the government will tighten its belts at all levels, and that all types of surplus funds will be withdrawn and re-allocated, to be put for better use.
PRO-DEMOCRACY campaigners in Hong Kong vowed on Friday to take to the streets in protest over what they said was China’s fiercest assault on the city’s treasured autonomy with its move to impose a security law.
The proposal for the legislation -- expected to ban treason, subversion and sedition -- was introduced into China’s rubber-stamp parliament at the opening of its annual session on Friday morning.
It followed repeated warnings from China’s communist leaders they would no longer tolerate dissent in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous city that endured seven months of massive pro-democracy protests last year.
“This is the largest nuclear weapon the Chinese Communist Party has used in its mutual destruction of Hong Kong,” Jimmy Sham, leader of the Civil Human Rights Front, which organised the million-person rally that kicked off last year’s unrest.
Sham appealed for millions to again take to the streets, while other activists used internet threads and chat apps to call for protests on Sunday.
Prominent democracy activist Joshua Wong said China’s message to protesters was clear.
“Beijing is attempting to silence Hongkongers’ critical voices with force and fear,” Wong said on Twitter, while
also expressing defiance. “Hkers will not scare off in the face of wolf warrior policy.”
Hong Kong shares plunge
While China put forward its proposal as vital to reinforcing stability in the global financial hub, Hong Kong’s share market plunged on Friday with a drop of more than five% in afternoon trade.
The Communist Party made clear Friday the planned law
was aimed at quashing the democracy movement.
“We must take powerful measures to lawfully prevent, stop and punish them,” vice chairman of the National People’s Congress’s (NPC) Standing Committee Wang Chen said, referring to “anti-china” forces.
China’s move would circumvent Hong Kong’s legislature by having it imposed by the national parliament. AFP
Police officers stop members of the Democratic Party moving towards the Chinese central government’s liaison office during a protest in Hong Kong on Friday |