Meet fresh faces at China's top legislature
Having swapped his overalls for a suit and tie, Qi Songyu boarded a train to Beijing.
Qi, an automaker technician, is a new deputy to the National People's Congress, China's national legislature.
The 13th NPC is holding its first session in Beijing. Of the nearly 3,000 deputies, three out of four are new faces.
More than 15 percent of the deputies are workers and farmers, up 2.28 percentage points from the previous NPC. Professionals number 613, with their share growing by 0.15 percentage points to 20.57 percent.
Qi, 44, is a maintenance worker from northeast China's Jilin Province, part of the country's old industrial base.
He won voters' heart as he converted a key-cutting machine into a sharpener to recycle the used blades, tools for auto electrode repair. The invention helps save 2.3 million yuan (US$363,000) every year for his state-owned employer, FAW Car Co Ltd.
Qi submitted three suggestions to the session, including raising the wages of skilled workers. He said under the current salary system, workers are paid based on their posts.
"Workers' skills vary even if their posts are the same," said Qi, adding that a differentiated pay system should be introduced to encourage quality workmanship and innovation.
NPC deputies are members of the highest organ of state power in China and are elected by secret ballot at people's congresses of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities ahead of the NPC.
During an NPC session, deputies submit motions and suggestions as well as review and vote on legal documents and personnel changes.
Unlike legislators in the West who make a career of politics, NPC deputies work part-time and many of them are ordinary citizens, including workers, farmers, teachers, artists and even street cleaners.
Deputy Gao Xiangqiu is a farmer and entrepreneur from northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.
She has organized 170 households to plant peppers and invited professionals for technical advice. The annual income per household increased by 20,000 yuan last year.
"I suggest the government offer policy support for bean farmers, as well as trial plantation of high-protein beans," she said.
With its vast tracts of fertile farmland, Heilongjiang is known as the country's "grain barn," with beans among its major products.
Many deputies proposed methods of developing agriculture as the country strives for rural revitalization, a concept proposed at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
A package of policies was unveiled in the first central document of the year to see a strong agricultural sector, a beautiful countryside and well-off farmers.
Duan Jun, one of the 45 migrant worker deputies, proposed upgrading seats on slow trains so that migrant workers, who sit for long hours on slow trains, could have a comfortable journey.
Although spacious and comfortable high-speed trains have connected large parts of China, migrant workers with meager pay prefer slow trains as the ticket price is only about a quarter that of a second-class seat on a high-speed train traveling the same distance.
China has 286 million migrant workers.
Film director Jia Zhangke was born in north China's Shanxi Province, known as the country's "coal capital." Last year, he organized the first international film festival in Pingyao, a World Cultural Heritage site in central Shanxi.
"Many have identified Shanxi with coal, neglecting its history of thousands of years," said Jia, now a tourism ambassador for the province.
He suggested developing the cultural industry to detach Shanxi from traditional coal mining in order to fight overcapacity and pollution.
Another suggestion related to pollution reduction was proposed by Li Shufu.
Li, chairman of leading Chinese auto brand Geely, suggested more government support for clean energy vehicles as well as market access for methanol-fueled cars to reduce car exhaust.
While many parts of China are limiting cars for better air, Gesang Degyi has been thrilled to see more vehicles in her hometown in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region.
Gesang Degyi, 40, is a primary school teacher from the border county of Medog, where there was no asphalt road until 2013.
"I have witnessed the great changes over the past five years in my hometown, with transportation and school conditions greatly improved," she said. "My suggestion is about balanced development in border areas."
Gesang Degyi is one of 400-plus ethnic minority deputies to the 13th NPC and the only deputy of the Moinba minority, one of the smallest ethnic groups in China.
According to China's electoral law, NPC deputies should be elected in proportion to the population, urban and rural regions alike. A deputy might represent several hundreds of thousands of people.
However, each of the country's 55 ethnic minorities is entitled by law to have at least one deputy to the NPC.
Over the past five years, deputies to the 12th NPC submitted 2,366 motions and 41,353 suggestions, said Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the 12th NPC, on Sunday.
Hundreds of the motions have been adopted or are being deliberated, he said in a work report.
At the ongoing first session of the 13th NPC, new deputies have a chance to meet and discuss how they will fulfill their duties in the next five years.
"An NPC deputy should speak for the people. I can feel the responsibility -- it's huge but an honor," Gesang Degyi said.