The Financial Express

China congress to vote on abolishing term limits for presidency

| Updated: March 11, 2018 14:39:02

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives at 2017 BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China, Sep 5 2017. Reuters/File Photo Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives at 2017 BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China, Sep 5 2017. Reuters/File Photo

China is set to approve the removal of term limits for its leader, in a move that will effectively allow Xi Jinping to remain as president for life.

The change is part of a set of constitutional changes expected to be passed by China's annual sitting of the National People's Congress on Sunday.

China has imposed a two-term limit on its president since the 1990s.

Mr Xi, however, defied the tradition of presenting a potential successor during October's Communist Party Congress.

Instead, he consolidated his political power as the party voted to enshrine his name and political ideology in the party's constitution - elevating his status to the level of its founder, Mao Zedong.

In late February, the party proposed removing term limits from China's constitution. Mr Xi was due to step down in 2023.

Sunday's vote on the changes at the National People's Congress is expected to pass without any difficulty.

The congress is, on paper, the most powerful legislative body in China - similar to the parliament in other nations.

But it is widely seen as a "rubber stamping" body, which will approve what it is told to.

The issue is not, however, without controversy.

The National People's Congress has never voted against the Communist Party. But some reports suggest a number of the 2,980 delegates may abstain - which would be seen as a clear protest vote.

Censors in China have been blocking discussion around the topic, including images of Winnie the Pooh. Social media users have taken to using cartoon character to represent Mr Xi.

One government critic wrote an open letter describing the proposal as a "farce", in a rare show of public dissent.

Former state newspaper editor Li Datong wrote that scrapping term limits for the president and vice-president would sow the seeds of chaos - in a message sent to some members of the national congress.

"I couldn't bear it any more. I was discussing with my friends and we were enraged. We have to voice our opposition," he told BBC China.

State media, however, have portrayed the changes as much-needed reform, reports BBC.

US President Donald Trump was criticised by some commentators for seeming to approve of Mr Xi's unlimited rule, saying on Monday: "President for life... I think it's great. Maybe we'll have to give that a shot some day."

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