China's Communist Party starts economic reform meeting

China's Communist Party starts economic reform meeting
Chinese leader Xi Jin Ping

BEIJING - China's ruling Communist Party commenced a key meeting Saturday focused on economic reforms, state media reported, a year after a closely watched leadership transition.

The official Xinhua news agency said in a short dispatch that the gathering had begun and would discuss a draft decision by the party Central Committee on "major issues concerning comprehensively deepening reforms".

The four-day session of the full 376-member committee is believed to be taking place at a closely guarded private hotel in Beijing and concludes Tuesday.

Security in the form of uniformed and plainclothes police was tight Saturday morning as a stream of black sedans with tinted windows could be seen entering the venue.

Police were preventing vehicles with non-Beijing license plates from proceeding on the city's main thoroughfare toward the hotel, according to an AFP photographer at the scene.

The meeting comes less than two weeks after a fiery vehicle crash in front of Tiananmen Square, the symbolic heart of the Chinese state, that killed two tourists and wounded dozens.

The government has described the incident as "terrorism" and blames separatists from Xinjiang, the far-western province home to the mostly Muslim Uighur minority.

The party gathering, known as the Third Plenum, has traditionally set the economic tone for a new government.

In the past, such meetings have been used to signal far-reaching changes in how China does business.

Last November, China began a once-a-decade leadership makeover as Xi Jinping took over as party general secretary before becoming state president in March.

The official Xinhua news agency proclaimed that the plenum "is expected to be a watershed as drastic economic policies will be unveiled".

Other reports have singled out land reform as a key issue, while a government think-tank called for dismantling the residency registration system known as hukou, which restricts access to medical insurance and other benefits for migrants.

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