Discussion of the Communist Party’s call to remove presidential term limits is being restricted online within China.

The official Xinhua news agency reported Sunday that the party’s Central Committee has proposed removing from the constitution a stipulation stating that the president and vice-president “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms.”

Along with other proposed changes, the alteration will be submitted to the annual full session of the National People’s Congress – China’s rubber-stamp legislature – in March.

National People's Congress npc beijing great hall
Photo: Lukas Messmer/HKFP.

President Xi Jinping is expected to be handed a second term in office during the session, and if the proposed changes are made, he could stay on indefinitely.

On Sina Weibo, one of the country’s largest social networking sites, comment sections were disabled below articles posted by state media outlets such as Xinhua, CCTV and Chinanews. Only comments selected by the People’s Daily account could be viewed below its article on the constitution reforms.

The suggested changes triggered posts comparing the president to Yuan Shikai, who became the first president of the newly-formed Republic of China in 1912 and is known for attempting to declare himself emperor.

pooh honey xi jinping
Photo: WeChat.

Weibo users also circulated a photo of an old post from Disney’s official account, with a photo of Winnie the Pooh hugging a pot of honey. The post said: “Find the thing you love and stick with it. – Winnie the Pooh.” Xi Jinping is often compared to the cartoon bear with many believing they share a resemblance.

According to Whats On Weibo, some also posted photos of Winnie the Pooh dressed as a king. The site also noted that other related terms such as “two-term limit” had become unsearchable by Sunday evening.

As of Monday morning, search results for the terms “Yuan Shikai” and “Winnie the Pooh” were banned from being displayed on Weibo “according to relevant laws, regulations and policies.”

weibo screenshot
Photo: Screenshot/Weibo.

The top search terms on FreeWeibo, a site that preserves censored Weibo posts, on Monday morning included “ascend the throne,” “constitutional amendment,” “Winnie,” and “Yuan Shikai.”

“Last night I had a dream that we had returned to the republic, and Yuan Shikai declared himself emperor,” one censored post said.

University of Pennsylvania professor Yang Guobin noted the proliferation of other memes on social media.

Netizens also posted a screenshot of searches for “migration” appearing to spike on Chinese search engine Baidu after the news broke.

catherine lai

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.