The moment the clock showed 9 am, the hubbub in the Great Hall of the People suddenly died away, the sounds of greetings, footsteps and camera shutters fading out.
The auditorium, packed with about 3,000 deputies and hundreds of media reporters, paused for a moment.
It was the first time that Li had delivered such a report since becoming premier.
In a speech that lasted 100 minutes, the man who is famous for his toughness during economic difficulties summarized the work of his government in 2013 and mapped out the missions and challenges ahead.
"Last year, we met with more difficulties but we delivered a better performance than expected," he said.
As Li summed up how the government has coped with the downward pressure in the economy and managed to deliver a good performance, the audience broke into a big round of applause. It was just one of more than 50 points in the speech that prompted such applause from the audience.
"It's not an easy task to keep the audience focused on the report, because it's so long, but he did it," said Hu Lingyun, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Hu, who is also the Party chief of Beihang University in Beijing, said the premier's words were "clear, simple and logical".
"I took notes at places that I thought were inspiring. The premier has set out targets for next year and for the longer term," Hu said.
To the surprise of many in the audience, when Li came to the section on national security and anti-terrorism efforts, he departed from the text.
Looking up at the audience, he said in a steady tone: "Just now, we mourned in this hall for the victims who died in the terrorist attack in Kunming. The Chinese government will firmly fight against terrorism, which has blasphemed against the dignity of laws and challenged the bottom line of human civilization. We will ensure the security of people's lives and assets, and build a peaceful China."
Yang Ming, a deputy to the National People's Congress from Yunnan province, said he was deeply moved by the premier's comments on the Kunming incident, a topic that was not included in the printed text of the work report.
"He clarified the stance of our government and revealed his true sentiments. His words gave me a sense of warmth at such a time," Yang said.