Asia

Photo gallery: China's Great Hall in shadow and light

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, March 8, 2017, a staff member checks his watch as he waits near the Great Hall of the People where a plenary session of the National People's Congress is held in Beijing, China. China's ceremonial parliament and its official advisory body traditionally hold their annual sessions at Beijing's Great Hall of the People during the first two weeks of March, a time when the Chinese capital is finally emerging from the long winter freeze. This year's gatherings were blessed by unusually clear weather, with little of the choking smog that so often grips the capital, and the resulting sunshine cast heavy black shadows of the building and people on the surrounding plaza.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    In this photo taken Wednesday, March 8, 2017, a staff member checks his watch as he waits near the Great Hall of the People where a plenary session of the National People's Congress is held in Beijing, China. China's ceremonial parliament and its official advisory body traditionally hold their annual sessions at Beijing's Great Hall of the People during the first two weeks of March, a time when the Chinese capital is finally emerging from the long winter freeze. This year's gatherings were blessed by unusually clear weather, with little of the choking smog that so often grips the capital, and the resulting sunshine cast heavy black shadows of the building and people on the surrounding plaza.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, March 8, 2017, Chinese military officers file into near the Great Hall of the People where a plenary session of the National People's Congress is held in Beijing, China. China's ceremonial parliament and its official advisory body traditionally hold their annual sessions at Beijing's Great Hall of the People during the first two weeks of March, a time when the Chinese capital is finally emerging from the long winter freeze. This year's gatherings were blessed by unusually clear weather, with little of the choking smog that so often grips the capital, and the resulting sunshine cast heavy black shadows of the building and people on the surrounding plaza.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    In this photo taken Wednesday, March 8, 2017, Chinese military officers file into near the Great Hall of the People where a plenary session of the National People's Congress is held in Beijing, China. China's ceremonial parliament and its official advisory body traditionally hold their annual sessions at Beijing's Great Hall of the People during the first two weeks of March, a time when the Chinese capital is finally emerging from the long winter freeze. This year's gatherings were blessed by unusually clear weather, with little of the choking smog that so often grips the capital, and the resulting sunshine cast heavy black shadows of the building and people on the surrounding plaza.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, March 8, 2017, attendees react as they walk towards the Great Hall of the People where a plenary session of the National People's Congress is held in Beijing, China. China's ceremonial parliament and its official advisory body traditionally hold their annual sessions at Beijing's Great Hall of the People during the first two weeks of March, a time when the Chinese capital is finally emerging from the long winter freeze. This year's gatherings were blessed by unusually clear weather, with little of the choking smog that so often grips the capital, and the resulting sunshine cast heavy black shadows of the building and people on the surrounding plaza.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    In this photo taken Wednesday, March 8, 2017, attendees react as they walk towards the Great Hall of the People where a plenary session of the National People's Congress is held in Beijing, China. China's ceremonial parliament and its official advisory body traditionally hold their annual sessions at Beijing's Great Hall of the People during the first two weeks of March, a time when the Chinese capital is finally emerging from the long winter freeze. This year's gatherings were blessed by unusually clear weather, with little of the choking smog that so often grips the capital, and the resulting sunshine cast heavy black shadows of the building and people on the surrounding plaza.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)  (The Associated Press)

China's ceremonial parliament and its official advisory body traditionally hold their annual sessions at Beijing's Great Hall of the People during the first two weeks of March, a time when the Chinese capital is finally emerging from the long winter freeze.

This year's gatherings were blessed by unusually clear weather, with little of the choking smog that so often grips the city, and the resulting sunshine cast heavy black shadows of the building and people on the surrounding plaza.

The sessions draw a veritable army of attendants, from the sentinels who guard the hall year round, to the special police, K9 units and firefighters brought in to prevent and contain any threats to the safety of participants.

Also a lively presence are the young, mostly female ushers who make sure the participants find their seats and the leaders always have a steaming cup of tea ready by their elbow.