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China blocks criticisms of term limit removal

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AFP PHOTO / ISAAC LAWRENCE

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s plan for President Xi Jinping to remain in office indefinitely has sparked social media criticisms, drawing comparisons to North Korea’s ruling dynasty and charges of creating a dictator by a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist.

The social media reaction late on Sunday saw China push a concerted propaganda yesterday, blocking some articles and publishing pieces praising the party.

The ruling Communist Party on Sunday proposed to remove a constitutional clause limiting presidential service to just two terms in office, meaning Xi might never have to retire.

The proposal, which will be passed by delegates at next month’s annual meeting of China’s parliament, is part of a package of amendments to the country’s constitution.

But it seems the party will have to convince some in China that the move will not end up giving Xi too much power.

“Argh, we’re going to become North Korea,” wrote one Weibo user. Another user wrote, “We’re following the example of our neighbour.”

Comments were removed late on Sunday after Weibo began blocking the search term “two term limit”.

China’s foreign ministry also reiterated that amending the constitution was a matter for the Chinese people.

Since 1954, when the constitution was first adopted, everybody can see that it has been “continuously improved”, spokesman Lu Kang said.

State-run newspaper Global Times said in an editorial the change did not mean the president will stay in office forever, though it did not offer much explanation.

People’s Daily reprinted a long article by Xinhua news agency saying most people supported the constitutional amendments, quoting a variety of people proffering support.

In one confusing moment for many Chinese, Xinhua initially only reported the news in English.

China is likely though to see any such criticism as a plot against the party.

“Every time China deliberates on reforms and key decisions, effect on public opinion is worth pondering,” the Global Times wrote. “Misinformation and external forces meddling will affect public opinion in China.”

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