(TibetanReview.net, Feb28, 2018) – The fact that President Xi Jinping is all but assured of unlimited term in office has drawn social media criticisms, prompting China’s ruling clique to clamp down on critics and publishing pieces praising the party. The decision by the party to enable Xi, already referred to as the chairman of everything, to remain in office indefinitely by amending the national constitution has sparked social media opposition, drawing comparisons to North Korea’s ruling dynasty and prompting a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist to accuse it of creating a dictator, reported Reuters Feb 27.
The report said the social media reaction late on Feb 25 quickly saw China swing into a concerted propaganda push by Feb 26, blocking some articles and publishing pieces praising the party.
The development followed the “proposal” by the ruling Communist Party on Feb 25 to remove a constitutional clause limiting presidential service to just two terms in office, meaning Xi, who also heads the party and the military, now might never have to retire.
The so-called proposal, which will be passed by delegates loyal to the party at next month’s annual meeting of China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament, is part of a package of amendments to the country’s constitution, the report noted.
The parliament will also add Xi’s political thought to the constitution. It was already added to the party constitution last year. The parliament will also set a legal framework for a super anti-corruption super-body, as well as more broadly strengthen the party’s tight grip on power.
Comments by Chinese social media users that the country was becoming like North Korea were removed late on Feb 25 after Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, began blocking the search term “two term limit”, the report said.
The report also noted that in an unusual move amid intense international media attention, China’s foreign ministry, which normally only comments on diplomatic matters, said amending the constitution was a matter for the Chinese people.
Spokesman Lu Kang was reported to have told a daily news briefing, “I hope everyone can acknowledge the voice of all the Chinese people.”
And the Global Times, China’s state-run newspaper, said in an editorial the change did not mean the country’s president will stay in office for ever, though it did not offer much explanation.
And it quoted Su Wei, a Communist Party academic and party member, as saying the amendment proposal was a significant decision as China needed a “stable, strong and consistent leadership” from 2020-2035.
The party’s official People’s Daily, the report noted, reprinted a long article by Xinhua news agency saying most people supported the constitutional amendments, quoting a variety of people proffering support. “The broad part of officials and the masses say that they hoped this constitutional reform is passed,” it was quoted as saying.
The report also said the WeChat account of the People’s Daily, after initially posting a flurry of positive comments under its article, then disabled the comments section completely late on Feb 25. It was back again by Feb 26, complete with remarks lauding the party, it added.
The report said the overseas edition of the same paper’s WeChat account removed entirely an article focusing on the term limits, replacing it with the lengthy Xinhua report summing up all the amendment proposals.
In Hong Kong, the constitutional amendment move came under strong criticism from the democracy movement leaders. “This move, which would allow for a single individual to amass and accumulate political power, means that China would again have a dictator as her head of state – Xi Jinping,” the report quoted Joshua Wong, one of the movement’s leaders.
China is seen as being likely to consider such criticism as a plot against the party.