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In rare visit, Xi mourns Castro

By An Baijie in Beijing | China Daily USA | Updated: 2016-11-30 11:52

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 Vice-President 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.

 In rare visit, Xi mourns Castro

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

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