Scrapping presidential term limit will take China back to Mao era, says veteran editor
The Communist Party of China has proposed the removal of a clause in the Constitution that limits a president to two consecutive terms, which means Xi will likely continue after completing his second term.Updated: Feb 28, 2018 22:49 IST
Hindustan Times, Beijing
The proposal to scrap the two-term limit for the presidency and pave the way for an unlimited tenure for President Xi Jinping will take China back to the “Mao era”, a veteran journalist has said, indicating the cult of personality and power that grew around the iconic leader Mao Zedong during his nearly three-decade rule between 1949 and 1976.
“I had no idea that such a change of term would be possible and learnt about it from the Xinhua (official news agency) report. The cancellation of the term of office is a matter of personal interest to every Chinese citizen. We think it is going back to the Mao era,” Li Datong, the former editor of the influential China Youth Daily whose open letter criticising the move created ripples online, said in an interview.
On Sunday, the Communist Party of China proposed the removal of a clause in the Constitution that limits a president to two consecutive terms. This means Xi - who did not name a successor during the once-in-five years party Congress in October - will continue after completing his second term.
Xi’s name and ideology, like those of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, have been enshrined in the Constitution.
The rubber-stamp National People's Congress is all but certain to endorse the move when its annual session begins next week.
The term limit was set in 1982 under Deng, then China’s leader, following a decade of chaos triggered by the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) and the political uncertainty that followed Mao’s death in 1976.
“I consider it a legitimate and lawful right of a Chinese citizen to comment on a publicly issued proposal to amend the Constitution,” the outspoken Li said during an interaction on WeChat, the popular phone app which he had used to release his letter, only to have it deleted soon after.
Li’s dissenting letter came against the backdrop of a concerted propaganda effort by the Communist Party to defend the move.
Editorials in official media outlets such as the People’s Daily have said the move is “very necessary and timely”, while China Daily said it is necessary to “perfect the party and the state leadership system”.
“Although this is a public appeal in my own name, so far I have received the support of many netizens and intellectuals,” Li said.
When asked about the other proposed changes, Li said: “Nothing else matters. This is the only substantive change.
“One appeal cannot change anything but such a decision will not last and ultimately become a political farce,” Li added, indicating that the decision could be withdrawn in future.
“I haven’t been affected at the moment. But I know of other speakers who have been called by the police,” Li said when he was asked whether he feared any repercussion. “I am not afraid of any one.”
First Published: Feb 28, 2018 16:51 IST