BEIJING (Xinhua) — President Xi Jinping on Sunday presented national medals and honorary titles of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the highest state honors, to dozens of individuals ahead of the 70th founding anniversary of the PRC.

Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, helped the awardees put on the medals and shook hands with them at a ceremony in the Great Hall of the People. Representatives received medals for some of the honorees.

Cuba’s Raul Castro Ruz, Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, Tanzania’s Salim Ahmed Salim, Russia’s Galina Kulikova, France’s Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Canada’s Isabel Crook were also awarded the Friendship Medal.

On behalf of those awarded the Medal of Friendship, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn said all six foreign awardees are “indeed friends of China” who would like to contribute to friendship between their countries and China.

“Distance cannot separate true friends, who remain close even when thousands of miles apart,” she said, citing the words of Zhang Jiu­ling, a renowned poet of the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

Addressing the event, Xi conveyed congratulations and respect to heroes and role models who received the Medal of the Republic and honorary titles and foreign friends who received the Friendship Medal.

Noting that the awardees are outstanding representatives of the people who contributed to the cause of the Party and the people, Xi said their deeds and contributions will always be marked in the history of the PRC.

When people respect and advocate heroes, more heroes will emerge, Xi said, adding that the Party and the state have always attached great importance to honoring heroes and role models.

“Today, we honor these heroes and role models with the highest standards to promote their qualities of loyalty, perseverance and humbleness,” he said.

The eight honorees of the Medal of the Republic are deceased nuclear physicist Yu Min, longtime national legislator Shen Jilan, aerospace engineer Sun Jiadong, war veterans Li Yannian and Zhang Fuqing, “father of hybrid rice” Yuan Longping, nuclear submarine designer Huang Xuhua and Nobel Prize winner Tu Youyou.

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