Xi Jinping Can Now Stay in Office After Second Term – Weibo Responds

The official announcement that the Central Committee of the Communist Party in China will amend the constitution of the PRC in some important ways, including a potential indefinite rule for China’s current president Xi Jinping, has triggered consternation on social media.

Ahead of Monday’s three-day Central Committee “plenum” in Beijing (十九届三中全会 – Feb 26 to 28), official Chinese news agencies (e.g. Xinhua) have reported that the meeting will address some important “structural reforms” to the constitution of the PRC.

On February 25, South China Morning Post‘s Matt Ho wrote that the institutional changes include a proposal by the Communist Party to remove the expression that the president and vice-president “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms.”

This means that Xi Jinping could potentially stay in office after his second five-year term of presidency ends in 2023.

The news caused consternation on Weibo and in WeChat circles, where it was received with much apprehension; some called the idea of Xi’s potential indefinite rule “scary.”

“Our emperor has received the Mandate of Heaven, so we have to kneel and accept,” a person on Weibo said. Others mentioned the North Korean regime and Napoleon in discussions on the constitutional change.

A news item by CCTV on the issue soon received nearly 10.000 shares on Sina Weibo on Sunday, but its comment section was turned off. Many online reactions were censored on Sunday evening, and people also addressed the censorship. On some threads that discussed the topic in a negative light, netizens warned others that they were “walking a tightrope.”

“I’ve posted this before but it was censored within 13 minutes so I will post it again,” one micro-blogger wrote: “I oppose to the amendment of the ‘no more than two consecutive terms of office’ as addressed in the third section of Article 79 of the Constitution.”

An image of Winnie the Pooh dressed up as a king also made its rounds on social media on Sunday. Winnie the Pooh has gone from cute bear to political meme on Weibo since netizens found resemblances between President Xi Jinping and the bear.

Another person replies: “Today is a big day in history. Even though I work in law, I’m ashamed to say I don’t understand the big implications [of this rule] (..).”

“I am not too pessimistic [about this],” another commenter wrote: “But then again, I’m not positive either.”

Besides critique, there was also some confusion on social media, with many netizens wondering whether or not the new law has already passed. Officially, China’s constitution still needs to be modified, so the law has not been formally passed -just yet.

By Sunday evening around 22:00 (Beijing time), various terms relating to the proposed amendment change, such as “two-term limit” or “continued rule” had become non-searchable on Weibo.

By Manya Koetse

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