Chi­nese say their good­byes

South African em­bassy over­whelmed by out­pour­ing of love and re­spect

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHAO YANRONG in Bei­jing and LI LIANXING in Jo­han­nes­burg

As world lead­ers and South Africans braved driv­ing rain and cold to honor Nel­son Man­dela in Jo­han­nes­burg, Bheki Langa was sur­prised to find out that the for­mer South African pres­i­dent was so loved by young Chi­nese.

The South African am­bas­sador to China said he was over­whelmed by the emo­tions ex­pressed by the Chi­nese since Man­dela died on Dec 5.

“We were quite heart­ened by that. We didn’t know he was so well known and beloved in China,” Langa said in an in­ter­view on Tues­day.

Since Man­dela’s death, the South African em­bassy in Bei­jing has been del­uged by mes­sages over the phone and through the In­ter­net.

Chi­nese have formed long lines out­side the em­bassy wait­ing for a chance to sign books of con­do­lence.

Zhang Yi­wen, 32, who works with the World Food Pro­gram China Of­fice, was one of them.

“Man­dela was a fighter for free­dom and jus­tice. It’s very in­spir­ing that a sin­gle per­son can have such great achieve­ments,” she said. “His spirit not only helped me stay strong when fac­ing the chal­lenges in my life but also en­cour­aged me to help vul­ner­a­ble groups.”

The South African com­mu­nity in Bei­jing lit can­dles to honor Man­dela on Tues­day.

“Man­dela has served our na­tion and the world with dis­tin­guished dig­nity, and we will for­ever re­main in­debted to him,” said Te­bogo Lefifi, the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Brand South Africa, a pub­lic re­la­tions agency of the South African gov­ern­ment, at a me­mo­rial event in Pino­tage, a South African restau­rant in Bei­jing.

“While his pass­ing is a source of sad­ness, we shall all con­tinue to cel­e­brate his legacy of com­mit­ment and ser­vice for the im­prove­ment of con­di­tions in his own coun­try and around the world,” she added.

Many peo­ple at Pino­tage left mes­sages on a 5-me­ter scroll, which will be sent to Man­dela’s fam­ily in South Africa.

At FNB Sta­dium in the Jo­han­nes­burg town­ship of Soweto, Vice- Pres­i­dent Li Yuan­chao joined more than 90 global lead­ers to pay re­spects to the late leader.

As the spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, Li said Man­dela was the pride of the African peo­ple.

“For all his life, he had striven for the lib­er­a­tion of African na­tions, cham­pi­oned the dig­nity of the African peo­ple and en­deav­ored to ad­vance the unity of all African coun­tries and move for­ward Africa’s co­op­er­a­tion with the world,” Li said at the me­mo­rial ser­vice.

He switched from Chi­nese to English, con­clud­ing his speech by say­ing: “Al­though the great man has left, Man­dela’s thought and his spirit will live for­ever.”

Hong Lei, spokesman for the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs, said on Tues­day that top Chi­nese lead­ers highly re­spected Man­dela.

Pres­i­dent Xi and Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang “give high marks to the im­por­tant role Man­dela played in the anti- apartheid strug­gle in South Africa and the his­tor­i­cal po­si­tion of the found­ing of the new South Africa, as well as Man­dela’s con­tri­bu­tion to the de­vel­op­ment of China-South Africa re­la­tions”, Hong said.

Man­dela’s con­nec­tion with China goes back a long way.

In his mem­oir Con­ver­sa­tions with My­self, Man­dela said he was in­spired by the work of Mao Ze­dong and the Chi­nese rev­o­lu­tion­ary ex­pe­ri­ences.

Am­bas­sador Langa said: “The South African peo­ple widely know that China was one of the first coun­tries Man­dela vis­ited af­ter he walked out of the prison, and one of the last coun­tries he paid a visit to near the end of his pres­i­den­tial term.”

Dur­ing his pres­i­dency in 1998, China and South Africa es­tab­lished diplo­matic re­la­tions.

“It was re­mark­able that over only 15 years since diplo­matic re­la­tions have been es­tab­lished, the eco­nomic ties have grown rapidly,” he said.

In Jo­han­nes­burg, South Africans who at­tended the me­mo­rial were con­fi­dent that South Africa-China re­la­tions will ad­vance with the legacy of Man­dela.

“We have a very good re­la­tion­ship with China and hope Chi­nese peo­ple can feel our in­spi­ra­tion as well,” Nancy Dlim­ina, a 29- year- old univer­sity stu­dent said. “We must share his spirit for an equal life and love to ev­ery one, and take this higher and higher.”

Peter Nkoma, a 44-year-old South African elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ance shop owner, said it was Man­dela who gave South Africans an equal op­por­tu­nity to start busi­nesses at home and em­brace more in­ter­na­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“That’s why we now have more trade ties with China and most of my goods are im­ported from China,” he said.

He Wenping, an ex­pert on African stud­ies at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, said the world is shar­ing Man­dela’s spirit of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, the power of for­give­ness as well as the unswerv­ing pur­suit of peace.

But South Africa still faces new chal­lenges, es­pe­cially the dif­fi­cul­ties of re­al­iz­ing equal­ity in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, she added.

“This is also why Pres­i­dent Zuma said that the goal Man­dela pur­sued still has a long way to go to be achieved,” He said.

THEMBA HADEBE / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rain does not de­ter peo­ple from crowd­ing into FNB Sta­dium in Jo­han­nes­burg on Tues­day to honor for­mer South African pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela.

MATT DUNHAM / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vice-Pres­i­dent Li Yuan­chao speaks at the me­mo­rial for Man­dela.

WU ZHIYI / CHINA DAILY

Late South African pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela (left) waves to the au­di­ence be­fore de­liv­er­ing a speech at Pek­ing Univer­sity in 1999 dur­ing his state visit to China.

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