Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Senior Chinese leader says Mr Lee Kuan Yew lay foundations for Sino-Singapore ties

BEIJING - China's seventh-ranked leader Zhang Gaoli described Mr Lee Kuan Yew as "an old friend of the Chinese people" as he paid his respects to the founding prime minister at the Singapore Embassy in Beijing on Wednesday, the most senior Chinese leader  to do so.

In the condolence book, Mr Zhang, who is also the country's vice-premier, credited Mr Lee for laying the foundations of Sino-Singapore ties.

"The Chinese people will always remember the outstanding contributions he made in fostering friendly China-Singapore ties and cooperation. I solemnly express my heartfelt condolences at the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew," he wrote in the book.

Mr Zhang is the seventh ranked member in China's apex decision making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, and is also co-chair of the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, the highest-level mechanism for bilateral cooperation between the two states.

Accompanied by a delegation of ministers such as Commerce Ministry vice-minister Gao Yin and Foreign Ministry vice-minister Zhang Min, they bowed their heads in silence in front of a screen bearing a black-and-white picture of Mr Lee before Mr Zhang proceeded to sign the book.

Separately, in response to a question as to who China will send to Singapore for Mr Lee's state funeral on Sunday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying would only say at a regular news conference on Wednesday that "a Chinese government leader will be attending". Details will be released as soon as possible, she added.

Earlier in the day, China's former ambassador to Singapore Ms Zhang Xiaokang also paid her respects at the embassy.

On Tuesday, Mr Zheng Bijian, vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's top political advisory body, and Mr Chen Deming, China's top cross-strait negotiator as president of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, also signed the condolence book.

esthert@sph.com.sg