BEIJING, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- China's annual legislative session is a time when big issues like the country's five-year development plan are discussed by thousands of lawmakers in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
But when President Xi Jinping sat down with lawmakers from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau this March, they found themselves talking about an unlikely topic at this marquee political event -- cats!
But these were no ordinary felines.
Lawmaker Kong Qingju showed the president photos of a snow leopard and a Chinese desert cat. Both species are on the top protection list.
"Rare species that were seldom seen before are now spotted frequently," said Kong. The increase in sightings is evidence that local conservation and biodiversity projects have paid off.
Kong told Xi that the region's human residents have benefited, too, as eco-tourism, environmentally-friendly husbandry and farming, and other agro-businesses have boosted local earning power.
Looking at the photos, Xi nodded approvingly. "This shows that ecological protection efforts have yielded results," said Xi. "People's awareness of ecological protection has also been strengthened, and they have seen the economic value of ecology itself."
During that day's discussion, ecological conservation was a key theme. Xi urged more efforts to protect the Sanjiangyuan (Three-River-Source) area, home to the headwaters of the three rivers of Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang, in Qinghai Province. Protecting this area is Qinghai's responsibility towards the whole country, the Chinese nation, and future generations, Xi told lawmakers of the province.
In June, when Xi visited Qinghai Lake, the country's largest inland saltwater lake, he asked a lot of questions and went to every detail to understand the environmental protection efforts. "How's the water quality here?" "How many bird species do you have?" "How do you implement the fishing ban?"
This week, addressing the COP15 meeting on biodiversity, Xi announced that China has officially designated its first group of national parks, including the Three-River-Source National Park in Qinghai.
There is good reason to believe that when the president sits down with Qinghai lawmakers next time, they will be able to continue their talk on cats, and many more rare species that will call the national park home.