PRESSURE on China to act on human rights and freedom for Tibet will fall from the political agenda if President Xi Jinping gains the prospect of lifelong premiership, it is claimed.

Annual meetings of the country’s ruling political advisory body and national legislature have begun. Members of the National People’s Congress (NPC) are expected to approve plans to scrap the two-term limit on the presidency and adopt Xi’s own ideology, known as “Xi Jinping Thought”, into the constitution.

The changes would allow Xi the chance to remain in office for life, overturning a time bar which has stood for almost 40 years.

The proposals follow major changes during Xi’s first term, including a crackdown on internet use, the arrest and detention of civil rights activists, including those commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Last month US-based Radio Free Asia reported 120,000 members of the country’s predominantly Muslim Uighur minority were being held in political “re-education” camps, while a corruption purge has removed several top ranking Communist Party of China officials, with some given jail time.

Dr Chris Ogden, senior lecturer in Asian security at St Andrews University, says Xi is “in some degree a dictator” and predicts “a tough crackdown on everything” if limits on his time in office are removed. He claims this will impact the Chinese diaspora and could force calls for a re-think on UK immigration and asylum policies.

However, Ogden told The National that the country’s economic might will see governments “downplay” human rights principles in favour of trade deals, with Brexit further weakening their willingness of either Holyrood or Westminster to press for change on this or political change in Tibet.

He said: “In my view, the world should stand up more to authoritarianism. However, everything has become reduced to money and trade.

“If I was to advise an envoy going to China, I’d say whatever you do, don’t mention domestic politics, Tibet or the Dalai Lama.

“The line from governments will be that they’ve said something in private. Before, they’d have said something in public.”

On post-Brexit relations with China, he went on: “We have lost part of our diplomatic appeal and, apart from some limited markets, we don’t really have much to offer.

“A very small country like Britain or Scotland doesn’t have much room to negotiate.

“When it comes to a billion pound deal or the Dalai Lama, the choice will be clear.”

On the impact of the change for China, Ogden said Xi is overturning rules designed to “avoid the cult of personality that occurred under Chairman Mao”. He added: “Such a centralisation of power led to domestic instability, and famine, and a period of totalitarian rule. If Xi were to become president-for-life, the possibility of such upheaval returning, especially if there is an economic downturn and in light of growing nationalism, is heightened.”