China's plan for President Xi Jinping to remain in office indefinitely has sparked social media opposition, drawing comparisons to North Korea's ruling dynasty and charges of creating a dictator by a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist.
The social media reaction late on Sunday quickly saw China swing into a concerted propaganda push by yesterday, blocking some articles and publishing pieces praising the party.
The ruling Communist Party on Sunday proposed to remove a constitutional clause limiting presidential service to just two terms in office, meaning Xi, who also heads the party and the military, might never have to retire.
The proposal, which will be passed by delegates loyal to the party at next month's annual meeting of China's largely rubber stamp parliament, is part of a package of amendments to the country's constitution.
It will also add Xi's political thought to the constitution, already added to the party constitution last year, and set a legal framework for a super anti-corruption superbody, as well as more broadly strengthen the party's tight grip on power.
But it seems the party will have its work cut out trying to convince some in China, where Xi is actually very popular thanks in part to his war on graft, that the move will not end up giving Xi too much power.
"Argh, we're going to become North Korea," wrote one Weibo user, where the Kim dynasty has ruled since the late 1940s. Kim Il Sung founded North Korea in 1948 and his family has ruled it ever since.
"We're following the example of our neighbour,' wrote another user.
The comments were removed late on Sunday after Weibo, China's answer to Twitter, began blocking the search term "two term limit".
Susan Shirk, one of the United States' foremost China specialists, said, “What is going on here is that Xi Jinping is setting himself up to rule China as a strongman, a personalistic leader – I have no problem calling it a dictator – for life.”
Joshua Wong, one of the Hong Kong's democratic movement leaders, said: "This move, which would allow for a single individual to amass and accumulate political power, means that China would again have a dictator as her head of state - Xi Jinping."