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January 21, 2010

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President leads a nation's farewell

PRESIDENT Hu Jintao and other top leaders attended a state funeral yesterday for the eight Chinese peacekeeping police officers killed in the Haiti earthquake last week.

The leaders joined thousands of members of the public at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in western Beijing.

People stood in long lines outside the ceremony hall in the winter chill, waiting to pay tribute to the peacekeepers whom the government posthumously honored on Tuesday as heroes.

In the hall, hung above the photographs of the officers, was a black banner reading, "Deeply mourning Chinese peacekeeping police officers who lost their lives in the Haiti earthquake."

Their coffins were decorated with white chrysanthemums, a traditional Chinese funeral flower, and covered by China's red national flag, surrounded by wreaths offered by their colleagues, friends and the country's leaders.

All the nine top leaders, in dark suits with white flowers pinned in their lapels, stood silently and bowed three times toward the coffins.

President Hu and other leaders shook hands with family members of the eight deceased, expressing condolences.

"I felt deep sorrow upon hearing of the deaths of the eight officers," Hu said to the family members.

"The eight martyrs gave their lives for the peacekeeping mission in Haiti," he said. "They deserve to be remembered as great children of the Chinese people and loyal guardians of world peace.

"The martyrs' spirit will be with the Chinese forever and we'll cherish the memory of them forever."

Among the eight officers, four were on a team sent by the Ministry of Public Security to Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, for peacekeeping consultations. The others were part of China's peacekeeping force in Haiti.

In a message on Tuesday, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said the officers "gave their lives for peace in Haiti and made valuable contributions to the cause of United Nations peacekeeping."

At the ceremony, Jean Walnard Dorneval, Haiti's commercial representative in China, tried hard to hold back tears while mentioning the names of two officers - Guo Baoshan and Li Xiaoming.

"I've met them no less than 20 times no matter in China or in Haiti. We're friends," he said.

"I think I should come to see them on behalf of my country and myself and express our most sincere gratitude to their family members."

Film star Jackie Chan yesterday announced a donation of 2 million yuan (US$293,000) to the families of the eight officers and 3 million yuan to China's peacekeeping corps in Haiti.

At, a leading Chinese Internet portal, more than 1.5 million people have offered virtual wreaths in online tributes.


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