China’s propaganda machine reportedly blocked the letter ‘n’ to be published on its social media this week in a bid to hush criticism against the nation’s President Xi Jinping.
Beijing is seeing an unprecedented outcry after the Communist Party of China proposed to scrap the term limits for President Xi on Sunday, paving way for him to rule the world’s second largest economy for life.
In Chinese slang, the English letter ‘n’ could be used alongside Chinese characters to mean a person has done something for ‘many’ times.
By banning the letter, the web users would not be able to post things which criticise Xi’s ‘n’ terms or ‘n’ years of presidency.
Xi Jinping’s (right) tightening grip on China had already earned the leader comparisons to Mao Zedong (left), but they came into even sharper focus after the party paved the way for him to assume the presidency indefinitely
The censorship of the letter on Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter, was temporarily and the ban was lifted on Monday, according to US-based internet tracker China Digital Times.
In addition to letter ‘n’, scores of terms have apparently been blocked by Beijing including ‘my emperor’, ‘ascend the throne’, ‘I oppose’, ‘lifelong’, and ‘Winnie the Pooh’ – the portly cartoon bear to which Xi has been compared.
The country has shocked many observers by proposing the constitutional amendment to end the two-term limit for presidents.
The rubber-stamp National People’s Congress (NPC) is certain to endorse the move next week, meaning that Xi – already China’s most powerful leader in decades – can stay as president beyond 2023.
Xi was formally handed a second term today as the President of China the 19th Communist Party Congress last October. He is seen voting at the closing ceremony of the congress
Li Datong, a former editor at the state-run China Youth Daily, posted a draft letter urging legislators to vote against the move – which would abolish term limits set in 1982 under Deng Xiaoping to prevent a return to the decades of chaos under Mao Zedong.
‘It was the highest and most effective legal restriction meant to prevent autocracy or putting individuals above the party and the state,’ said the letter. It was not sent to legislators but shared with hundreds of people in a private group on China’s WeChat phone messaging app.
‘Lifting the term limits of national leaders will be ridiculed by civilised nations all over the world and also sow the seeds of chaos for China,’ said the text posted on Monday.
WeChat users trying to share screenshots of the letter saw their posts blocked.
The two-term limit was inserted into the Constitution in 1982 to prevent future leaders from potential dictatorship. The change was made after Mao’s (right) one-man rule for some 30 years. Xi, pictured at the Belt and Road Forum last year (right), could be in office beyond 2024
From Mao to Xi: The timeline shows the nine key top leaders of China since 1949
Censors have scrambled to delete all dissenting comments on social media – even the word ‘disagree’ is blocked – but users of the Twitter-like Weibo website kept speaking out Tuesday, two days after the party Central Committee announcement.
‘So pathetic, we have 1.3 billion people, no one can resist,’ wrote one user.
Another lamented the lack of political reform: ‘I once believed that I could see a president elected by one man, one vote in my lifetime.’
The NPC, at its annual full session starting Monday, will also formally approve a second five-year presidential term for Xi, who is Communist Party chief and head of the armed forces in addition to being head of state.
Legislators will add his eponymous political philosophy to the state constitution.
Xi Jinping (centre) with members of the Politburo Standing Committee meet the press during the 19th Communist Party Congress. The Committee holds the ultimate power in China
Communist Party delegates listen to President Xi Jinping giving a 3.5-hour-long speech during the opening ceremony of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China
State media defended the amendment in editorials that lavished praise on the communist party’s overall leadership.
The English-language China Daily said the lifting of the presidential term limit ‘has been necessitated by the need to perfect the Party and the State leadership system’.
The party has always proposed amendments that ‘have injected new ideas and concepts about where the country will go and how it will achieve its goal of rejuvenation and ensure people live happier lives,’ it said.
The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid, was even more profuse in its praise of the amendment in an editorial entitled ‘Constitution change responds to new era’.
Since Xi took power, it wrote, ‘the new ruling team has not just been muddling along under the leadership of General Secretary Xi Jinping. Instead, it quickly started to deepen reforms in a comprehensive and magnificent way.’
The newspaper took a shot at the political systems of the United States and Europe.
‘It has shaped and affected quite a few Chinese people’s mindsets. But some key parts of the Western value system are collapsing. Democracy, which has been explored and practised by Western societies for hundreds of years, is ulcerating,’ it said.
‘China cannot stop and take a break… our country must not be disturbed by the outside world or lose our confidence as the West grows increasingly vigilant toward China.’
The administration of President Donald Trump, who has called Xi a friend but regularly clashes with Beijing over trade, had a guarded reaction to the Communist Party’s move.
‘The president has talked about term limits in a number of capacities during the campaign and something that he supports here in the United States, but that’s a decision that’s up to China,’ said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.