China says lifting term limits is about protecting authority of party

BEIJING - Removing presidential term limits in the state constitution is about protecting the authority of the ruling Communist Party with President Xi Jinping at its center, a Chinese government spokesman said on Sunday.
The party said last Sunday it would remove the two-term limit clause, setting the stage for Xi to stay in office indefinitely should he wish, prompting accusations from some in the country that China is set to become another North Korea.
While the party's official People's Daily said on Thursday the move did not mean life-long terms, the proposal has caused unease in China.
Parliament, which opens its two week-long annual session on Monday, will pass the amendment as the body is stacked with party loyalists who will not question decisions from the leadership.
Asked whether the constitutional amendment would mean Xi would stay in office for life, Zhang Yesui, a vice foreign minister and spokesman for parliament, did not offer a direct answer.
Instead he referred to the party constitution, which has no term limits for who heads the party and heads the military, positions Xi also holds and which are considered more senior in the country's hierarchy than the presidency.
The state constitution will therefore also mimic the party constitution in regard to the presidency, Zhang told a news conference.