It was all quiet on the political adviser front yesterday when members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference were asked about controversial retired property developer Ren Zhiqiang and the tightening

of speech on the mainland.

Last week Ren, a Communist Party member, openly questioned President Xi Jinping’s call for the media to maintain “absolute loyalty” to the party. His mainland-based microblog accounts were subsequently shut down.

Other “Big V”s, or celebrities and high-profile commentators, have also come under attack from party mouthpieces for their opinions online.

Asked about the controversy on Friday on the second day of the CPPCC’s annual session, Nobel laureate Mo Yan, whose pen name translates as “don’t speak”, brushed off the request with just one word: “Lunch.”

Actor Zhang Guoli then strode past swiftly and avoided being buttonholed by reporters waiting at the secure Beijing Convention Centre on the fifth ring road.

Later, prominent film director and award-winning actor Feng Xiaogang tried to exit a meeting room under cover of a baseball cap.

READ MORE: China’s Donald Trump: loud and proud Ren Zhiqiang offers a litmus test for opinion inside the Communist Party

When asked about Ren, Feng, the “Spielberg of China” who was quoted three years ago as saying “censorship is torment”, raised a finger to his lips.

“Shush,” he whispered. And walked away.

Many of the CPPCC’s celebrity deputies are part of the culture, art and sports panels meeting at the convention centre.

The sports panel was the only one scheduled to be open to journalists yesterday, and when the doors finally opened 45 minutes later than scheduled, the assembled members of the press were greeted by silence from the chosen elite of the country’s sporting community.

The silence remained for several minutes, with members staring at or taking notes on their copies of CPPCC chairman Yu Zhengsheng’s speech on Thursday.

All the while, waitresses tip-toed back and forth to top up the panel’s cups of tea.

It was only when former deputy sports minister Duan Shijie gave the cue that two retired top athletes – former NBA star Yao Ming and Olympic champion hurdler Liu Xiang – began to talk about their understanding of the importance of the CPPCC and their proposals.

Browse photography at Denver.Gallery.