International students from China rally around #NotMyPresident campaign
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International students from China rally around #NotMyPresident campaign

CHINESE international students are risking it all by protesting against the prospect of President Xi Jinping ruling indefinitely.

“Not my president” is the campaign Chinese students in Australia, United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Netherlands and Argentina are fighting for, despite risking punishment upon their return to China.

International students are protesting against the removal of a presidential term limit in the constitution, over fears this will entrench the Chinese Communist Party’s school of thought deeper into the arts, media and minds of China under Xi.

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“We’re facing retaliation from the Chinese Government once we’re exposed because there’ll be jail time without due process,” one student who is part of the movement told Hacka current affairs radio show in Australia.

“We’re not Australian residents and we’re definitely going to turn back to China and that’s a huge security risk.”

The students are distributing posters with the words ‘NOT MY PRESIDENT’ written over Xi’s face, as well as protesting through the Twitter hashtag #notmypresident.

Chinese international students have a reputation for being politically inactive in response to the Communist Party’s actions, according to the New York TimesThis is unsurprising given the arrests of people caught speaking up against the government on social media alone.

But the possibility of Xi ruling for life, regardless of the fact he was never democratically elected by a popular vote, has pushed international students from China over the edge of silence.

“We’re in Western countries where free speech is protected and we think we’re morally obliged to do something, stand up and speak for our people,” the student involved told Hack.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping walks to deliver his speech at the closing session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 20, 2018. Picture taken with a slow shutter speed. Source: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

The proposal of undisputed single leadership is adding salt into the barely healed wound left from former Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s 25-year reign, according to Foreign Policy.

Between 1949 and 1976, Mao manipulated the country into voicelessness, before adopting drastic economic and social policies that left China stitching up economic, political and cultural scars in his wake.

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After his death, China created a collective leadership model that essentially assured the population that a single authoritarian ruler would not be able to repeat the path of Mao. But now this is in jeopardy under the constitutional changes.

“I want to say to all of you out there who are listening… Please don’t let fear get to you. Because fear is what they use to manipulate you, definitely protect yourself to fight another day and express your ideas,” the student protesters said.

The organisers of the campaign told Foreign Policy: “We as a group of Chinese citizens overseas already enjoy the privilege to study and work in countries where free speech is not only protected but also encouraged.

“If we don’t speak up for our people at home, who would?”

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister website Study International News.