BEIJING -- Chinese President Xi Jinping awarded medals and honorary titles to an array of domestic and international "heroes" on Sunday, including a former French prime minister and a centenarian Canadian educator.
The award ceremony is part of China's celebrations to mark 70 years of Communist rule, which will kick off on Tuesday with a massive military parade in Beijing aimed at showcasing the country's emergence as a global superpower.
"The heroes and role models are all devoted to the cause of the Party and the people... and hold fast to working for the happiness of the Chinese people," said Xi in a speech following the presentation of awards.
Isabel Crook, a Canadian anthropologist and educator born in 1915, was the oldest awardee present and had lived in China since before the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, according to official news agency Xinhua.
Born in the southwest city of Chengdu, the centenarian made "outstanding contributions in the cause for China's education and friendly exchanges with foreign countries," Xinhua reported.
Former French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, an "old friend of the Chinese people," was recognized for his "long-term commitment to promoting China-France friendship," said Xinhua.
Other international awardees included former Cuban president Raul Castro and Thai princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
A total of 42 individuals were given awards, though only 29 recipients were present at the ceremony.
Tu Youyou, the first Chinese citizen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for helping create anti-malaria medicine, was among the list of Chinese awardees, as well as Yu Min, a nuclear physicist widely regarded as the "father of China's hydrogen bomb."