China Scraps Premier’s Annual News Conference in Surprise Move

China’s premier will no longer hold a news conference after the country’s annual legislative meeting, Beijing announced on Monday, ending a three-decades-long practice that had been an exceedingly rare opportunity for journalists to interact with top Chinese leaders.

The decision, announced a day before the opening of this year’s legislative conclave, was to many observers a sign of the country’s increasing information opacity, even as the government has declared its commitment to transparency and fostering a friendly business environment.

It also reinforced how China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, has consolidated power, relegating all other officials, including the premier — the country’s No. 2, who oversees government ministries — to much less visible roles. China’s current premier, Li Qiang, was widely considered to have been elevated to the role last year because of his loyalty to Mr. Xi.

“Barring any special circumstances, there will not be a premier’s news conference in the next few years after this year’s legislative session either,” Lou Qinjian, a spokesman for the legislature, said at a news briefing about this year’s session.

Mr. Lou offered few details about the decision, except to say that there would be a greater number of question-and-answer sessions with lower-level officials instead.

On Chinese social media, censors were closely regulating discussion of the change. The comments sections of many official news reports about the announcement were closed. On the popular platform Weibo, a search for the hashtag “There will be no premier’s news conference after the closing ceremony of this year’s legislative session” — the language used in the official reports — returned an error message: “Sorry, this content cannot be displayed.”

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