Xi Jinping becomes China's 'president for life' as Parliament abolishes term limits


China's rubber-stamp parliament is set Sunday to hand President Xi Jinping free rein to rule the rising Asian superpower indefinitely, with potential dissenting votes offering the only suspense in the historic vote.

Shen Chunyao, chairman of the legislature's legal affairs panel, brushed aside a foreign reporter's question about fears that a return to one-man rule could spark a power struggle, telling a press conference: "Those assumptions, guesses and extrapolations don't exist".

The National People's Congress is all but certain to approve a constitutional amendment that has stunned many in China, sparking an unusual bout of criticism that censors have scrambled to extinguish.

Beijing-based activist Hu Jia, who says authorities forced him to leave the capital during the congress, called the amendment "illegal".

In the past nine decades of the party's history it has overcome hardships and resolved major problems, including orderly leadership transitions and keeping the party and country's vitality and long-term stability, he added.

"After 40 years' of reform and opening up we opened a new path for socialism with Chinese characteristics". But the government quickly mounted a propaganda push, blocking some comments and publishing pieces praising the proposal. Now, the future of largest populous in the country depends upon the Xi Jinping, who has emerged as the powerful leader in China in recent years.

The country's presidency is a largely ceremonial office, but the constitutional limits meant Xi would have had to give it up in 2023.

"China has it's own national characteristics", He said. "I believe that your speculation is ungrounded and without basis", he said.

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In a further measure of Xi's strength, a key Xi ally, former top graft-buster Wang Qishan, could be elected vice president on Saturday, having stepped down from the Standing Committee in October. The amendment also lifts term limits for the vice presidency.

"We'll get it in the next few days", she told Reuters, referring to the candidate list for vice president, and adding "everyone has been saying" it will be Wang for the position.

Xi Jinping took over as general secretary of the Communist Party and became China's President in 2013, a year later.

"This is the urgent wish of the common people", Ju Xiuqin, a delegate from northeastern Heilongjiang province, told AFP, echoing party claims that lifting term limits had the unanimous support of "the masses".

The party gave Xi the title of "core" leader in 2016, a significant strengthening of his position at the time.

He also claimed that the amendments which will literally ensure a life term rule of the 64-year-old Xi was worked out after reaching a "high level of consensus" both in the CPC and the country.

Jinping is considered as China's strongest leader after Mao and is now heading CPC, the military, and the Presidency, which is mostly ceremonial.