PEKING (Reuters) – China's plan to hold President Xi Jinping in office for an indefinite period sparked social media opposition, drawing comparisons with the ruling dynasty of North Korea and a dictator's indictment by a pro-democracy activist in Hong Kong.
The late-Sunday-Sunday social media reaction quickly turned China into a concerted propaganda push by blocking some articles and publishing articles praising the party.
The ruling Communist Party on Sunday proposed removing a constitutional clause limiting the presidential service to only two terms in office, meaning that Xi, who also heads the party and the military, never has to retire.
The proposal, adopted by delegates loyal to the party at the next assembly of the Chinese parliamentarian next month, is part of a package of changes to the country's constitution.
It will also add Xi's political thoughts to the Constitution, which has already been added to last year's party constitution, and set a legal framework for a super-anti-corruption superbody, as well as the party's close access to the party Power continues to strengthen.
But it seems that the party will be spared their efforts to convince some in China, where Xi is actually very popular, in part thanks to his war on grafting that the move will not give Xi too much power.
"Argh, we are North Korea," wrote a Weibo user, where the Kim Dynasty ruled since the late 1
"We follow the example of our neighbor," wrote another user.
The comments were removed late on Sunday night after Weibo, China's response to Twitter, began blocking the search term "2 term limit".
The widely read state newspaper Global Times, in an editorial carried online late Sunday and published on Monday, said the change did not say that the president will remain in the office forever, even though it offered little explanation.
"Since the reform and opening up, China, led by the Communist Party, has successfully resolved and will solve the problem of replacing the party and national leadership in a lawful and orderly manner," the report said, pointing to pioneering economic reforms four decades have begun.
The Party's official People's Daily printed a lengthy article from Xinhua News Agency, saying that most people supported the constitutional amendments and cited a variety of supporters.
"The vast majority of officials and masses say they hoped that this constitutional reform would be passed," she wrote.
The People's Daily's WeChat account, after initially publishing a flood of positive comments in its article, completely disabled the comment section late on Sunday night. It was back on Monday, with remarks that praised the party.
The overseas edition of the WeChat account of the same paper completely removed an article that focused on the term boundaries and replaced it with the long Xinhua report, which summarized all the proposed changes.
In a confusing moment for many Chinese, Xinhua initially reported in English only.
The decision has also unsettled some in Hong Kong's Chinese territory, where the authorities have tried to stem a pro-democracy movement.
"This move, which would allow a single person to gather and accumulate political power, means that China would again have a dictator as its head of state, Xi Jinping," said Joshua Wong, one of the leaders of the movement ,
"The law may exist in form in China, but this only proves that Chinese law exists to serve the individual and the goals of the party."
China will likely see such criticism as a plot against the party.
"Every time China thinks about reforms and key decisions, it's worth influencing public opinion," the Global Times wrote. "Misinformation and external interference will influence public opinion in China."
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Venus Wu in Hong Kong; Edited by Michael Perry