Tue, Feb 27, 2018 - Page 6 News List

PRC censors criticism of term extension plan

WHAT WOULD POOH DO?Newspapers have run stories and editorials supporting the move, while censors attempt to stamp out complaints on social media sites

Reuters, BEIJING

People yesterday walk past a poster of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

Photo: AFP

China’s plan for President Xi Jinping (習近平) to remain in office indefinitely has sparked social media opposition, 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 quickly saw China swing into a concerted propaganda push by yesterday, blocking some articles and publishing pieces praising the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The party on Sunday proposed to remove a constitutional clause limiting presidential service to just two terms in office, meaning Xi, who also heads the CCP and the military, might never have to retire.

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

However, it seems the party will have its work cut out trying 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,” one Weibo user wrote, while another wrote: “We’re following the example of our neighbor.”

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

In an unusual step amid intense international media attention, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which normally only comments on diplomatic matters, said 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 (陸慷) told a daily briefing. “I hope everyone can acknowledge the voice of all the Chinese people.”

The Global Times said in an editorial the change did not mean the president will stay in office for ever, though it did not offer much explanation.

The party’s 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.

The WeChat account of the People’s Daily, after initially posting a flurry of positive comments under its article, then disabled the comments section completely late on Sunday. It was back again by yesterday, complete with remarks lauding the party.

The overseas edition of the same paper’s WeChat account removed entirely an article focusing on the term limits, replacing it with the Xinhua report summing up all the amendment proposals.

Jokes have also circulated on social media.

One shows a picture of a condom in its wrapper under the words “doing it twice is not enough.”

Others shared pictures of Winnie the Pooh, an Internet meme that plays on Xi’s supposed likeness to the cartoon bear, an image censors have repeatedly tried to remove. Images of Winnie the Pooh hugging a jar of honey were shared along with the quote: “Find the thing you love and stick with it.”

The decision has also unsettled some in Hong Kong.

“This move, which would allow for a single individual to amass and accumulate political power, means that China would again have a dictator as her head of state — Xi Jinping,” said Joshua Wong (黃之鋒), one of the leaders of the “Umbrella movement.” “The law may exist in China in form, but this just proves that the Chinese law exists to serve the individual and the party’s purposes.”

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