China mourned South African anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela on Friday, but took to the
Internet to ask awkward questions about their own human rights leaders, many of whom are in jail or endure frequent harassment by the government.
Chinese President Xi Jinping praised Mandela for "leading the South African people through arduous struggles to the anti-apartheid victory," in a condolence message to South African President Jacob Zuma.
"The Chinese people will always remember Mr Mandela's extraordinary contributions to the development of China-South Africa ties and the cause of human progress," Xi said, in comments carried by Xinhua, the official news agency.
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera's Rob McBride, reporting from Beijing, reported that some of the tributes from ordinary Chinese citizens turned into veiled criticism against the Chinese leadership.
McBride said that online posters made indirect reference to Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who has been jailed by the Chinese government.
"We are remembering a person who respected and struggled for human rights, freedom and equality, but China's Mandela, who has done exactly the same kind of things, has been jailed," wrote one user in a widely shared post, making an apparent reference to Liu, whose name is blocked on Weibo, the country's equivalent of Twitter.
"It's totally ironic."
Another wrote, "If Mandela had been Chinese, he'd have been beaten to death."
[Al Jazeera and Agencies]