Xi praises Fidel Castro, a much-loved figure for Chinese people


Beijing—Few foreign leaders have been more endearing to Chinese people than Fidel Castro, the charismatic Cuban revolutionary whose death at age 90 late Friday has prompted condolences and commendations from the blogosphere and Beijing leadership.
Calling him “a great figure of our times”, President Xi Jinping said Castro’s death meant the Chinese people had lost a close comrade and sincere friend.
“His glorious image and great achievements will go down in history,” said Xi, who visited with the man known to most Cubans as “El Comandante” — the commander — in 2011 and 2014.
“The great comrade Fidel Castro will be forever remembered,” Xi said on Saturday.
Premier Li Keqiang, who had talked with Castro in Havana on Sept 25, also lavished him with praise.
In his message of condolence to Cuban leader Raul Castro, Fidel Castro’s brother, Li hailed the elder Castro as “the founder, defender and propeller of China-Cuba ties”.
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.
Li said China stands ready to inherit and carry forward the traditional friendship between the two countries.
State broadcaster China Central Television aired a documentary hours after Castro died, showing an impassioned figure asking a huge gathering at Havana’s Revolution Square on Sept 2, 1960, if the Cuban people would like to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.
The crowd’s positive response was overwhelming. In 26 days, Cuba became the first nation in the Western Hemisphere to forge diplomatic relationship with New China. “Many of the older generation of Chinese live with a nostalgic, sweet memory of singing the lyrics to Beautiful Havana and tasting Cuban sugar,” according to the documentary.—INP