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Letter criticising removal of limit on Prez term deleted as China censors go into overdrive

The Communist Party of China has proposed the removal of a clause in the Constitution that limits a president to two consecutive terms, triggering speculation that Xi will continue in his post.

world Updated: Feb 27, 2018 22:32 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
China,President Xi Jinping,China president term limits
A decorative plate featuring an image of Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen beside a statue of late Communist leader Mao Zedong at a souvenir store next to Tiananmen Square in Beijing on February 27, 2018. China's propaganda machine has kicked into overdrive to defend the Communist Party's move to scrap term limits for President Xi Jinping as critics on social media again defied censorship attempts. (AFP)

A senior Chinese journalist has attempted to circulate a letter criticising the proposal to scrap the limit on presidential terms and calling for it to be voted out during the annual Parliament session which convenes next month.

The letter was issued as China’s censors went into overdrive this week to delete terms and phrases that even obliquely criticised the move to allow President Xi Jinping to continue in the post after his 10-year term.

On Sunday, the Communist Party of China proposed the removal of a clause in the Constitution that limits a president to two consecutive terms, triggering speculation that Xi will continue after the completion of his second term.

The rubber-stamp National People's Congress (NPC) is all but certain to endorse the move next week. The limit was set in 1982 under Deng Xiaoping, then China’s leader.

Li Datong, a former editor at state-run China Youth Daily, posted a draft letter urging legislators to vote against the move, reports said on Tuesday.

“It (the restriction) was the highest and most effective legal restriction meant to prevent autocracy or putting individuals above the party and the state,” said the letter quoted by news agency AFP.

The letter was shared on WeChat, a mobile phone app used by hundreds of millions of Chinese.

“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,” the letter read.

"If there are no term limits on a country's highest leader, then we are returning to an imperial regime,'' Li told The Associated Press. "My generation has lived through Mao. That era is over. How can we possibly go back to it?''

The censors blocked the letter soon after it was posted.

“He is trying to restore monarchy, which is absolutely intolerable. The Constitution concerns the interest of every citizen. This is the reversal to the monarchy and a return to the Mao era,” Li also told Fairfax media.

The US-based tracker of the Chinese internet, China Digital Times, said several words and phrases such as “my emperor”, “ascend the throne”, “I oppose”, and “lifelong” had been blocked.

Washington-based democracy advocacy group, Freedom House, said the removal of the term limit means more repression and control.

“The abolishment of term limits for China’s president tells us that the stepped-up control and repression pushed forward by President Xi will likely worsen under what will amount to one-man rule,” said Michael J Abramowitz, FreedomHouse head.

“The decision sends a chilling message to democratic voices in Hong Kong and to Taiwan, both of which have come under intense pressure from Beijing. And it signals that Beijing’s drive to create a new world order in which democratic institutions and norms play little or no role will be accelerated,” Abramowitz added.

First Published: Feb 27, 2018 22:32 IST