China sets stage for Xi to stay in office indefinitely

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) speaks during a meeting with Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (not pictured) at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on February 1, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 25 February 2018
0

China sets stage for Xi to stay in office indefinitely

BEIJING: China’s ruling Communist Party on Sunday set the stage for President Xi Jinping to stay in office indefinitely, with a proposal to remove a constitutional clause limiting presidential service to just two terms in office.
Xi, 64, is currently required by the country’s constitution to step down as president after two five-year terms. Nearing the end of his first term, he will be formally elected to a second at the annual meeting of China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament opening on March 5.
There is no limit on his tenure as the party and military chief, though a maximum 10-year term is the norm. He began his second term as head of the party and military in October at the end of a once-every-five-years party congress.
The announcement, carried by state news agency Xinhua, gave few details. It said the proposal had been made by the party’s Central Committee, the largest of its elite ruling bodies. The proposal also covers the vice president position.
“The Communist Party of China Central Committee proposed to remove the expression that the President and Vice President of the People’s Republic of China ‘shall serve no more than two consecutive terms’ from the country’s Constitution,” Xinhua said.
The Central Committee also proposed inserting “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” into the constitution, Xinhua said in a separate report, referring to Xi’s guiding political thought that is already in the arguably more important Communist Party constitution.
Constitutional reform needs to be approved by parliament. That is stacked with members chosen for their loyalty to the party, meaning the reform will not be blocked.
There has been persistent speculation that Xi wants to stay on in office past the customary two five-year terms.
One of his closest political allies, former top graft buster Wang Qishan, stepped down from the party’s Standing Committee — the seven-man body that runs China — in October.
Aged 69, Wang had reached the age at which top officials tend to retire. But he has been chosen as a parliament delegate this year and is likely to become vice president, sources with ties to the leadership and diplomats say.
The move is significant because if Wang does not retire, that could set a precedent for Xi to stay on in power after he completes the traditional two terms in office.
However, the role of party chief is more senior than that of president. At some point Xi could be given a party position that also enables him to stay on as long as he likes.


South Sudan vaccinates health teams in Ebola epidemic

Updated 54 min 53 sec ago
0

South Sudan vaccinates health teams in Ebola epidemic

  • The ministry of health’s vaccination campaign, with cooperation from the WHO, will target health care and frontline workers in the high-risk states of Juba, Yei, Yambio and Nimule

NAIROBI: South Sudan will vaccinate key health workers against Ebola close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, which faces a new epidemic, the World Health Organization said Monday.
The ministry of health’s vaccination campaign, with cooperation from the WHO, will target health care and frontline workers in the high-risk states of Juba, Yei, Yambio and Nimule, the UN agency said in a statement.
South Sudan is one of several countries bordering the vast DRC, where the new outbreak of the highly contagious viral disease had since August claimed 271 lives by December 6, according to Congolese Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga.
A total of 2,160 doses of the experimental vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV have been allocated to South Sudan for a program starting on December 19. This trial vaccine is not yet licensed but is considered safe and provided “under the compassionate-use guidelines in response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in DRC,” the WHO said.
Like neighboring Uganda, where similar measures have been taken for health personnel, South Sudan has declared a state of alert because of the risk that Ebola may be carried into its territory. At present, no cases have been reported, according the WHO.
The experimental vaccine first went on trial during the terrible epidemic of Ebola that ravaged parts of West Africa between the end of 2013 and 2016, at a cost of more than 11,300 lives. The disease spreads through contact with bodily fluids from other people or infected animals.
The vaccine was created by Canadian public health specialists at the National Microbiology Laboratory and is considered highly effective by the WHO, but it works only against the Ebola virus-Zaire strain, confirmed in the outbreak in the DRC.
South Sudan has been torn by civil war for five years in a conflict that has left nearly 400,000 dead. More than four million people — about a third of the population — have fled.
The main belligerents signed a peace accord in September, but the work of humanitarian organizations remains complicated and dangerous.
Participants in the vaccination program have been trained on rVSV-ZEBOV and undertaken a simulation exercise. Meanwhile, the Ebola preparedness contingency plan covers measures ranging from screening travelers, community engagement and provision for safe and dignified funerals, the WHO said.