China’s rubber-stamp lawmakers on Sunday passed a historic constitutional amendment abolishing a presidential two-term limit that will enable Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely.
The amendment upends a system enacted by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1982 to prevent a return to the bloody excesses of a lifelong dictatorship typified by Mao Zedong’s chaotic 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.
“This marks the biggest regression in China’s legal system since the reform and opening-up era of the 1980s,” said Zhang Lifan, an independent Beijing-based political commentator.
“I’m afraid that this will all be written into our history in the future,” Zhang said.
Voting among the National People’s Congress’ nearly 3,000 hand-picked delegates began in the mid-afternoon, with Xi leading members of the Communist Party’s seven-member all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee in casting their votes. He placed his orange ballot paper in a red box bearing the official seal of state placed front and center on the stage inside the cavernous hall.
Rank-and-file deputies then rose to vote on the floor of the hall as jaunty instrumental music played. Ten minutes later, the process had ended and delegates were asked to return to their seats while the votes were counted.