Former editor of a state-run daily urges legislators to reject the move; Chinese speak out on Weibo
China’s propaganda machine kicked into overdrive on Tuesday to defend the Communist Party’s move to scrap term limits for President Xi Jinping as critics on social media again defied censorship attempts.
The country has shocked many observers by proposing a constitutional amendment to end the two-term limit for Presidents, giving Mr. Xi a clear path to rule the country for life.
The National People’s Congress (NPC) is certain to endorse the move next week, meaning that Mr. Xi can stay as President beyond 2023.
‘Vote against it’
Li Datong, a former editor at the state-run China Youth Daily, posted a draft letter urging legislators to vote against the move — which would abolish term limits set in 1982 under Deng Xiaoping to prevent a return to the decades of chaos under Mao Zedong.
“It was the highest and most effective legal restriction meant to prevent autocracy or putting individuals above the party and the state,” said the letter. It was not sent to legislators but shared with hundreds of people in a private group on China’s WeChat phone messaging app.
“Lifting the term limits of national leaders will be ridiculed by civilised nations all over the world and also sow the seeds of chaos for China,” said the text posted on Monday. WeChat users trying to share screenshots of the letter saw their posts blocked.
Deletion of phrases
Censors have scrambled to delete all dissenting comments on social media — even the word “disagree” is blocked — but users of the Twitter-like Weibo website kept speaking out on Tuesday, two days after the party Central Committee announcement. “So pathetic, we have 1.3 billion people, no one can resist,” wrote one user.
Another lamented the lack of political reform: “I once believed that I could see a President elected by one man, one vote in my lifetime.” Scores of terms have been blocked, according to a list of dozens of words compiled by U.S.-based Internet tracker China Digital Times — including “my emperor”; “ascend the throne”; “I oppose”; “lifelong”; and “Winnie the Pooh” — the portly cartoon bear to which Xi has been compared.
The NPC, at its annual full session, will also formally approve a second five-year presidential term for Mr. Xi, who is Communist Party chief and head of the armed forces in addition to being head of state. Legislators will add his eponymous political philosophy to the state Constitution.
State media defended the amendment in editorials that lavished praise on the party’s overall leadership.
The English-language China Daily said the lifting of the presidential term limit “has been necessitated by the need to perfect the Party and the State leadership system”.