Nelson Mandela

China pays tribute to Mandela, an 'old friend of the Chinese people'

Chinese social media reaction to Mandela's death brings criticism of mainland

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 December, 2013, 10:27am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 December, 2013, 1:52pm

China has referred to Nelson Mandela as an old friend of Chinese people in a tribute to the former South African president who died on Thursday at the age of 95.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hong Lei said that Mandela made a historic contribution to the establishment and development of Sino-South African relations.

“He’s not only regarded as ‘the father of country’ by the South African people, but has also won respect and fondness from people all around the world,” Hong added.

President Xi Jinping sent personal condolences to Nelson Mandela on Friday morning and praised his “historic contribution” to South Africa and the world.

“Mr Mandela was a world renowned statesman. With arduous and extraordinary efforts, he led the South African people to win the battle against apartheid, making a historic contribution to the birth and development of a new South Africa,” Xi said in a message of condolence to South African President Jacob Zuma, Xinhua reported.

The report said Xi’s message was both representing China and expressing his personal condolences.

Mandela, who visited China twice, “actively promoted friendly cooperation between China and South Africa in various areas”, it added.

“The Chinese people will forever keep in memory the outstanding contributions he made to... the development of humankind.”

Earlier Beijing’s foreign ministry called Mandela an “old friend of the Chinese people”.

“He was not only revered as the ’father of the state’ by South African people, but also won the respect and love of people all over the world,” spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement.

China established formal ties with South Africa at the beginning of 1998. Mandela’s death has been widely reported in the Chinese media and people on social media particularly heaped him with praise as South African’s first black president and a global hero for non-violent struggle against racial oppression, injustice, and for freedom.

Video: Mandela, South Africa's icon of freedom and forgiveness, dies

Ren Zhiqiang, a mainland property tycoon and online celebrity, said peace among people and nations is a universal consensus.

“That’s why his death could cause such tremendous responses in countries with different political systems because he is an icon for the pursuit of freedom and peaceful co-existence,” Ren said.

Another commentator under the name of Ma Yong said that apart from his beliefs, perseverance and will power, what made Mandela great is that he had a bottom line in comparison with his enemies.

“He could stay in prison for 20 years and get out alive without pleading guilty in humiliation and this is unimaginable in many countries.”

A mainland current affairs commentator writing under the name of Fen Yi said that Mandela has contributed in three areas for his role in ending apartheid and his refusal to settle a political score afterwards.

“But what has made him stand out is he moved forward with democratic politics in South African when he was in power and he didn’t try to pull strings after his retirement.”

"A great man passed away," wrote one poster. "Mandela is great because he persisted with fighting in a non-violent way despite facing an unfair world, promoted reconciliation, not revenge, between different ethnic groups after gaining power, and gave up power... He was a man with real sense of mission - the kind of person China is currently lacking."