Chinese mourn Mandela; ask awkward questions about own dissidents

Thu Dec 5, 2013 11:42pm EST
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BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese mourned South African anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela on Friday, but took to the Internet to ask awkward questions about their own human rights leaders, many of whom are in jail or endure frequent harassment by the government.

Chinese President Xi Jinping praised Mandela for "leading the South African people through arduous struggles to the anti-apartheid victory," in a condolence message to South African President Jacob Zuma.

"The Chinese people will always remember Mr Mandela's extraordinary contributions to the development of China-South Africa ties and the cause of human progress," Xi said, in comments carried by Xinhua, the official news agency.

Ordinary Chinese took to microblogging site Sina Weibo, the country's equivalent of Twitter, to express their sadness.

But many took issue with their government's stance on Mandela's death, especially since Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo remains in jail.

"We are remembering a person who respected and struggled for human rights, freedom and equality, but China's Mandela, who has done exactly the same kind of things, has been jailed," wrote one user in a widely shared post, making an apparent reference to Liu, whose name is blocked on Weibo.

"It's totally ironic."

Another wrote, "If Mandela had been Chinese, he'd have been beaten to death."

A third Weibo user wrote, "China does not lack people like Mandela or Aung San Suu Kyi. The difference is that they both eventually ended up being freed. People like this, in China, once they go into jail, they vanish."   Continued...

Former South African President Nelson Mandela speaks after being conferred with an Honorary Doctorate of Laws at the University of Galway in this June 20, 2003 file photo. REUTERS/Paul McErlane/Files