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2018-03-05 HKT 16:52
Beijing said on Monday that a far-reaching proposal to scrap term limits for President Xi Jinping – paving the way for him to rule the country indefinitely – has won the ‘unanimous’ support of the Chinese Communist Party, the government, and the people at large.
At the opening of the annual plenary session of the legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), a constitutional amendment to scrap the two-term limit for the presidency was read out to delegates at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, to thunderous applause.
The government said the change will “uphold the authority of the central committee of the party with comrade Xi Jinping at the core and also unify leadership.”
An official document said opinion polls and other research showed that members of the Communist Party, government officials, and people around the country all support the change that will scrap the two-term presidential limit.
If, as expected, the change is approved in a vote on March 11, the head of China’s military, economy and state will be concentrated in the hands of Xi Jinping indefinitely.
The two-term limit had been put in place by former leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s in a bid to institutionalise peaceful transitions of power after Mao Zedong’s long rule.
Without the change, Xi, who turns 65 in June, would have been constitutionally obligated to cede power after his second five-year term ends in 2022.
Despite concerns that the change will put more power in the hands of one man since Mao, outgoing NPC Standing Committee member Rita Fan said it is important for Xi to carry on.
"I don't think we can see anyone on the horizon who can pick up this leadership role other than President Xi," she said. "So to remove that limitation on two terms, which therefore allows Xi possibly to have a third term, I think is very important for China's development at this stage."
But she said that doesn't mean Xi will stay in power forever.
"When the whole reform in China, the modernisation of China, has taken shape and the foundation is laid, someone else can take up this 'burden'," Fan said.
Hong Kong NPC deputy Peter Wong insists that a proposal to set up a new anti-graft ‘superbody’ called the National Supervision Commission will provide the necessary checks and balances.
"You have a supervisory committee to check on all government public servants, including the president and the vice-president”, he said. “If they are not doing their job, the supervisory committee should act. So it is a more enhanced democratic system," Wong added.