Rare public dissent over proposal to scrap Chinese presidency term limits
The constitutional amendment will grant Xi Jinping a second five-year term and appoint new ministers and other government officials.
A well-known political commentator and a prominent businesswoman have penned open letters urging the National People’s Congress to reject a plan that would allow President Xi Jinping to rule China indefinitely, in a rare public expression of dissent.
Their impassioned statements on a popular messaging app were circulated widely after the ruling Communist Party announced a proposal to scrap term limits on the president and vice president.
In a statement on WeChat to Beijing’s members of China’s parliament, Li Datong, a former editor for the state-run China Youth Daily, wrote that lifting term limits would “sow the seeds of chaos”.
Mr Li said: “If there are no term limits on a country’s highest leader, then we are returning to an imperial regime.
“My generation has lived through Mao. That era is over. How can we possibly go back to it?”
Wang Ying, a businesswoman who has advocated for government reforms, wrote on WeChat that the Communist Party’s proposal was “an outright betrayal” and “against the tides”.
She wrote: “I know that you (the government) will dare to do anything, and one ordinary person’s voice is certainly useless. But I am a Chinese citizen, and I don’t plan on leaving. This is my motherland too!”
An official in the information department of the Standing Committee of the legislative body, the National People’s Congress, said he was not aware of the open letters.
The congress is all but certain to pass the constitutional amendment when it meets for its annual session early next month, where it will grant Mr Xi a second five-year term and appoint new ministers and other government officials.
Under the 1982 constitution, the president is limited to two five-year terms in office, but Mr Xi — already China’s most powerful leader since Mao — appears to want additional terms to see through his agenda of fighting corruption, eliminating poverty and transforming China into a modern leading nation by mid-century.
Government and party spokesmen have yet to offer any detailed explanations on the reasoning and motivation behind the dropping of term limits. Nor is it clear whether Mr Xi will seek to remain president for life or will only stay on for a set number of additional terms.
The move is fuelling anxiety that Beijing might be undermining reforms needed to keep the Chinese economy healthy.
Business leaders and economists see a slide toward one-man rule under Mr Xi – away from impartial institutions needed to support private businesses that generate new jobs and wealth.
Private sector analysts say concentrating more power in Mr Xi’s hands could hamper business and cool down investment by making China’s economy more unpredictable and less able to respond to challenges.
The official China Daily newspaper commented that the proposal was “necessitated by the need to perfect the party and the state’s leadership system”.
Censors have deleted any satirical online commentary on the move, while Communist Party’s Global Times warned that “outside forces” are trying to challenge the party leadership.