China's President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang paid tributes to former Singaporean PM Lee Kuan Yew after he died early Monday, mourning his demise and calling him an old friend of the Chinese people.
Xi said Lee, who was ethnically Chinese, was “widely respected by the international community as a strategist and a statesman” and expressed “sincere condolences” to his relatives.
A flurry of articles, opinion pieces and photographs in the Chinese media hailed Lee as a great strategist and statesman of Asia.
Xi extended his condolences to Singapore’s President Tony Tan Keng Yam.
“Lee and the old generations of Chinese leaders jointly set the direction of China-Singapore ties,” Xi was quoted as saying by the state media. He added that Lee made great contributions to enhancing friendship of the two peoples and broadening bilateral cooperation.
“The death of Lee is a loss to the people of Singapore, and to the international community as well,” Xi added.
Lee was called an Asian statesman with an “unique influence”.
In a message posted on the website of China’s State Council or Cabinet, Premier Li said, “Mr Lee Kuan Yew had worked together with the pioneering generation of Chinese leaders in opening the gate for the friendly cooperation between China and Singapore…His contributions to the China-Singapore relationship and China’s reform and opening up will surely be marked by history.”
“Lee was a strategist with both oriental values and international visions,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said in a statement.
Hong said that Lee was “a uniquely influential statesman in Asia" who made "historic contributions” to Singapore's ties with Beijing.
Chinese state media published a series of photographs of Lee’s one-on-one meetings with the Chinese top leadership, beginning with his meeting with Chairman Mao Zedong on May 12, 1976 in Beijing.
The photo series carried Lee’s photos with all leaders since Mao, ending with one with Xi in 2011, also in Beijing.