In rare visit, Xi mourns Cas­tro

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By AN BAIJIE in Bei­jing an­bai­jie@chi­nadaily.com.cn

We mourn with deep grief the Cuban peo­ple’s ex­cel­lent leader and Chi­nese peo­ple’s great friend.” Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping paid a visit to the Cuban em­bassy in Bei­jing on Tues­day to mourn the pass­ing of Cuban leader Fidel Cas­tro, whom he called a “great friend of the Chi­nese peo­ple”.

It was the first time that Xi has gone to a for­eign em­bassy to ex­press con­do­lences for the pass­ing of a for­eign leader since he be­came pres­i­dent in 2013.

“We mourn with deep grief the Cuban peo­ple’s ex­cel­lent leader and the Chi­nese peo­ple’s great friend, Com­rade Fidel Cas­tro,” Xi wrote in the book of con­do­lences. Cas­tro, 90, who led the Cuban Rev­o­lu­tion, died on Fri­day.

Xi said the visit is meant to con­vey a mes­sage to Cuban com­rades that the Com­mu­nist Party of China, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment and Chi­nese peo­ple stand firmly to­gether with them “at this spe­cial time”.

The pres­i­dent, men­tion­ing that Cuba is the first Latin Amer­i­can coun­try to de­velop diplo­matic ties with China, added that China is will­ing to make joint ef­forts with Cuba for the steady development of bi­lat­eral ties.

Xi has also ap­pointed Vi­cePres­i­dent Li Yuan­chao as his spe­cial en­voy to fly to Cuba for the fu­neral of Cas­tro, ac­cord­ing to For­eign Min­istry spokesman Geng Shuang.

Xi sent a mes­sage of con­do­lence on Satur­day to Raul Cas­tro, first sec­re­tary of the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of Cuba, pres­i­dent of the Coun­cil of State and the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters of Cuba, and brother of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary leader.

“The death of Fidel Cas­tro has made the Chi­nese peo­ple lose a close com­rade and sin­cere friend. His glo­ri­ous im­age and great achieve­ments will go down in his­tory,” Xi said in the mes­sage.

Newly ap­pointed Cuban Am­bas­sador to China Miguel An­gel Ramirez Ramos said Xi’s visit showed that ties be­tween the two coun­tries were of the high­est sig­nif­i­cance.

Cas­tro had al­ways at­tached great im­por­tance to ties with China and kept a close eye on China’s so­cial progress and achieve­ments, Ramirez said.

Fidel Cas­tro led Cuba for nearly half a cen­tury be­fore step­ping down for health rea­sons in 2006, when he passed the ba­ton to his brother.

Xi met with Fidel Cas­tro twice in the three years from 2011 to 2014.

In 2011, Xi, then vice-pres­i­dent, vis­ited Cas­tro’s house, which was shaded by moringa trees. In July 2014, dur­ing his state visit to Cuba, Xi pre­sented Cas­tro with some seeds of moringa and mul­berry trees.

The last time a Chi­nese pres­i­dent went to a for­eign em­bassy to ex­press con­do­lences was in De­cem­ber 2011, when then-pres­i­dent Hu Jin­tao went to the Em­bassy of the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea in Bei­jing after the death of DPRK leader Kim Jong-il.

Zou Shuo con­trib­uted to this story.

A woman places flow­ers out­side of the Cuban Em­bassy in Bei­jing, where peo­ple mourn Cuba’s for­mer pres­i­dent Fidel Cas­tro, on Tues­day.

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