Unanimous call for change scrapping Xi term limits

Top News | Agence France-Presse and Amy Nip 6 Mar 2018

The masses and party members unanimously called for a constitutional amendment to scrap the two-term limit for the presidency, National People's Congress Standing Committee vice chairman Wang Chen said.

In the Great Hall of the People, Wang read out the bill for the constitutional amendment, which is set to be approved on Sunday by the country's top legislature.

When he reached the part about scrapping the two-term limit, he was met with thunderous applause from legislators.

Under the Communist Party's constitution, there is no term limit imposed on the party general secretary or for the chairman of the Central Military Commission.

The bill says the change "will be conducive to safeguarding the authority and the unified leadership of the CCP Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core and to strengthening and perfecting the national leadership system."

Opinions had been sought at the grassroots level and "the masses, party members and cadres in many regions" had "unanimously called" for the revision of term limits, according to Wang.

Lifting term limits would allow the 64-year-old Xi to stay on as party chief, head of the military and president beyond 2023, when his second term is due to end.

In Hong Kong, New People's Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee yesterday said the change is fitting for China. Centralization of power is more stable, she said.

"[Canceling the limit] would of course be considered regression in Western systems. But if we are talking about China's traditional political structure, there are reasons for that change," she said.

The pillar of rule of law is limiting one's power, and to maintain a high level of human rights and freedom. Such concept was absent in China over the past thousands of years, she said.

Brexit and the election of Donald Trump show the risk of leadership changes, she added.

Censors have worked furiously to stamp out dissenting voices on social media, blocking dozens of words - from "disagree" to "emperor" - on Weibo in recent days.

On Monday, some Weibo users defied censors to post comments such as "shall we say, long live the king?" or "history will judge him harshly."

State media outlets masked the comments sections on the stories they posted about the amendment on Weibo on Monday.

Analysts have warned that the move carries risks as it ends a "collective" model of leadership that maintained stability after Mao's chaotic reign from 1949 to his death in 1976.

Hua Po, a Beijing-based political commentator, said Xi was handed "a mess" when he took office five years ago and needs more time to finish the job.

"One of the greatest tasks after he took office was to remove all threats to the party and state. To do this, it is not enough for him to serve only two terms," Hua said.

"The Chinese system is a system that requires strong leaders, but it's not easy to train a strongman. Xi needs more time to find and train the right successors," he said.

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