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2022-09-09 09:35:05

China’s top leaders and its people joined millions around the world to pay tribute to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II after the death of the country’s longest-reigning monarch was announced Thursday. She was 96.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on Friday sent their condolences to the royal family and the British people, according to state-run Xinhua News Agency. Xi is quoted as saying that her death was “a tremendous loss to the British people,” while acknowledging her landmark visit to the country.

Queen Elizabeth was the first British head of state to visit the Chinese mainland in October 1986, along with her late husband Prince Philip. The couple met Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and toured six cities, taking pictures at the Great Wall in Beijing and with the famed terra-cotta warriors in the northwestern city of Xi’an.

After Buckingham Palace announced the queen’s death, Chinese social media users shared photos from her China trip. On microblogging platform Weibo, 20 of the 50 top topics list were dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II on Friday morning, with many calling her a “legend.” 

“She has probably witnessed the most striking parts of history in modern times, and now she has completed her mission,” one user commented

As the world’s oldest and longest-serving head of state, Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne after her father King George VI died in 1952. She has witnessed a myriad of social changes and political upheavals both at home and abroad during her 70-year reign, from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 to Brexit in 2020.

While Elizabeth II was a much revered figure, the institution has been censured for its colonial legacy, including in Hong Kong up until 1997. On Weibo, some comments criticized the British royal family for defending its colonial rule in other countries, arguing that the Chinese people should instead commemorate the nation’s founder Mao Zedong, as Friday marks the 46th anniversary of his death.

The British monarch’s death also made headlines in China’s domestic media. Many outlets highlighted Queen Elizabeth’s key role in stabilizing and unifying the country, while expressing concerns about the struggles Britain currently faces.

“The passing of Queen Elizabeth is another blow to the confidence of British people in the wake of inflation and the energy crisis,” Zhao Chen, a researcher focusing on European studies at China Academy of Social Sciences, told domestic outlet Time News, adding that her death could leave question marks for the monarchy and trigger a reputation crisis for the royal family in the future.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Floral tributes for Queen Elizabeth II are seen at Government House in Sydney, Australia, Sept. 9, 2022. Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images/VCG)