Wednesday, December 19, 2018 | ePaper

Indefinite rule for China's Xi snuffs out activists' reform hopes

  • Print


A poster with a portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping is displayed along a street in Shanghai, China.

Reuters, Beijing :
During Chinese President Xi Jinping's first years in office, rights activists tried to remain buoyant despite shrinking opportunities to organize.
They staged small-scale protests, switched messaging platforms to avoid surveillance, supported the families and friends of those jailed, and pledged to continue their rights work come what may.
But a move to end presidential term limits, enabling Xi to remain in office indefinitely, may well have slammed the door shut on any hopes for a resurgence of grassroots activism and pressure for democratic political reform.
On Sunday, delegates at the annual meeting of China's largely rubber-stamp parliament are expected to ratify the necessary constitutional amendment to make Xi the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, the founder of communist China.
"To say it's a low period sounds too superficial. It will be more like a freeze, where not one inch of grass is born. A barren period, for a very long time," said Zhao Sile, a mainland journalist and activist who is a visiting scholar at National Chung Cheng University in Taiwan, where she recently published a book on social movements in China over the past two decades.
A growing space for activism in the early 2000s, fueled by social media and a movement of liberal reformers in the run-up to Beijing's hosting of the 2008 Olympics, was buffeted by intermittent crackdowns from late that year to 2013, when Xi assumed power.
But the Xi era has been marked by what many activists say has been an unremitting squeeze on public dissent, including the government's increasing control and censorship of cyberspace.
China's State Council Information Office, which also speaks for the ruling Communist Party, did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment for this article.
Delegates gathered at the parliamentary meeting in Beijing say scrapping the two-term presidential limit is popular with ordinary Chinese who are happy to have a leader of Xi's caliber. Rights lawyers, once among the most active and vocal groups of reformers in China, have faced what activist groups call a coordinated campaign of repression under Xi.
As an example, a day after the announcement of term limits being scrapped, central China's Lengshuijiang city justice bureau warned lawyers and law-firms that a failure to "maintain consistency" with the Communist Party when speaking about the amendments to the constitution online could mean being disbarred, according to a letter circulated online. Reuters was unable to independently verify the document's authenticity.
A number of rights lawyers have been disbarred by the authorities in recent months for allegedly breaching rules governing their behavior .
Such crackdowns mean that fewer people are prepared to go public with any criticism of Xi.
"Any opposition he faces from his opponents will be far, far smaller than what Mao Zedong faced," said writer and activist Mo Zhixu, who is married to Zhao and is also a visiting scholar at Chung Cheng.
Mo writes on Chinese politics as a member of the non-profit Independent Chinese PEN Center, which since its founding in 2001 has been an intellectual home for critics of China's political system, including Nobel Peace Prize-winner Liu Xiaobo.
Liu, who was president of the centre from 2003 to 2007, died of cancer last year while in Chinese custody.
In 2008, Liu and others wrote a manifesto known as Charter 08, calling for China's constitution to be rewritten to ensure liberal democracy and to abolish one-party rule.
One activist inside China who is still prepared to go public is Li Datong, a former editor at the state-run China Youth Daily who was fired in 2006 after publishing article that pushed for greater civil liberties. He said news of term limits being abolished sparked outrage and anger in liberal chat groups online.

More News For this Category

Former FBI chief lashes out at Trump, Republicans for telling `lies`

Former FBI chief lashes out at Trump, Republicans for telling `lies`

CNN, Washington :Washington (CNN)Former FBI Director James Comey slammed Republicans on Monday for not speaking out against President Donald Trump's attacks on the FBI and strongly defended the agency's conduct,

S. Korea battles to raise birth rate

S. Korea battles to raise birth rate

AFP, Seoul :When Ashley Park started her marketing job at a Seoul drugmaker she had a near-perfect college record, flawless English, and got on well with her colleagues - none

Japan to buy more stealth jets, radar to counter China, Russia

Japan to buy more stealth jets, radar to counter China, Russia

Reuters, Tokyo :Japan will accelerate spending on advanced stealth fighters, long-range missiles and other equipment over the next five years to support US forces facing China's military in the Western

A migrant family traveling from Central America en route to the US run away from tear gas.

A migrant family traveling from Central America en route to the US run away from tear gas.

Xi pledges 'unswerving' reforms, but on own terms

Xi pledges 'unswerving' reforms, but on own terms

AFP, Beijing :President Xi Jinping warned Tuesday that no one can "dictate" China's economic development path as the Communist Party marked 40 years of its historic "reform and opening up"

News in brief

Yemen's Hodeida calm after ceasefire takes effectAFP, Sanaa Yemen's flashpoint city of Hodeida was calm on Tuesday following heavy clashes that erupted after a UN-brokered ceasefire started at midnight, pro-government

Saudi Arabia slams US Senate vote on Khashoggi`s murder as `interference`

Saudi Arabia slams US Senate vote on Khashoggi`s murder as `interference`

AP, Riyadh :Saudi Arabia issued an unusually strong rebuke of the U.S. Senate on Monday, rejecting a bipartisan resolution that put the blame for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal

Indian troops enforce lockdown to foil Kashmir public march

Indian troops enforce lockdown to foil Kashmir public march

AP, Srinagar :Soldiers and police fanned out across Indian-controlled Kashmir on Monday to enforce a security lockdown for a second straight day to stop anti-India protests and foil a call

New Brexit vote would 'break faith' with British, says May

New Brexit vote would 'break faith' with British, says May

Reuters, London :Prime Minister Theresa May will state her opposition to a second Brexit referendum on Monday, telling parliament such a vote would "break faith" with British people and do

Macron's popularity drops further after month of Paris protests

Macron's popularity drops further after month of Paris protests

AFP, Paris :A month of "yellow vest" protests have taken a further toll on the popularity of French President Emmanuel Macron, a new poll showed today, with analysts saying he