— Across Asia Friday, democracy advocates, political leaders and ordinary people paid tribute to Nelson Mandela as a peaceful revolutionary. Chinese authorities expressed deep grief, while some pondered the question of which person in China most resembled South Africa’s freedom fighter.
In Asia it was Mandela’s courage and compassion that was a source of inspiration in places where people still face serious restrictions on basic rights.
From ordinary people to Nobel Laureate's, many took time to celebrate a man who become an icon for his peaceful stand for freedom.
Burmese opposition politician and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said that South Africa’s first democratically elected president helped the world understand that no one should be punished for the color of their skin or the circumstances they were born into.
“He also made us understand that we can change the world," she noted. "We can change the world by changing attitudes, by changing perceptions. For this reason I would like to pay him tribute as a great human being who raised the standard of humanity."
Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, also a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, said he considered Mandela as a respected elder brother. The Dalai Lama said that he hoped that those mourning his passing would use it as inspiration.
“This is a very sad moment for those including myself who admire that great person. Sad, just feel sad, and pray, but not much meaning. How we must develop determination or enthusiasm to carry his spirit - that's really important. Because sometimes the sadness can translate into more willpower,” he said.
India’s President Pranab Mukherjee spoke about how the world has lost another icon of humanity or as he put it “a struggler, a fighter, a crusader against all injustice.” He compared him to India’s own founding father, Mahatma Gandhi.
In New Delhi, resident Hemant Khurana echoed that sentiment. "It's very shocking news for all the world because he was one of the grand figures in the world today," said Khurana. "And he was very much inspired by Gandhi so India has a special feeling for such a great man."
Outside South Africa’s embassies from Australia to China, some came to pay their respects. In the Chinese capital of Beijing, several young Chinese students gathered and spoke about Mandela’s influence.
The student said that Nelson Mandela fought for freedom and was a fighter his entire life. He did not give up because of temporary setbacks or because there was no progress. His spirit has infected us, the student says.
Chinese President Xi Jinping praised Mandela as a world-renowned statesman and noted how he led the South African people in their fight against apartheid.
Xi also noted his contributions to relations with China and how Mandela was one of the founders of Beijing’s bilateral relationship with Pretoria. In 1998, South Africa switched its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China.
China’s state-media heaped praise on Mandela and his passing dominated coverage for most of the day on state run television with commentators speaking openly about how he was a fighter for freedom and democracy.
While China's State media drew comparisons between Mandela and Mao Zedong, some noted that Singapore’s former leader Lee Kwan-yew earlier this year compared him with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Such comments, however were hotly debated and the postings quickly removed from social media sites.
Online, some drew comparisons to Chinese rights activists, including imprisoned Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo.
Others wondered if China could produce an individual similar to the African statesman. Historian Zhang Lifan said that would be unlikely.
Zhang said many have been asking online if China could ever produce someone similar to Mandela and some say it is a cultural issue. He said he agrees and notes that the culture the Communist Party has created in Chinese society makes it very difficult to have someone like Mandela.
Author He Baoguo wrote on his Twitter-like Weibo site that if Mandela has been born in China he would be tortured in jail and forced to make confessions on state-run television.
Aru Pande in New Delhi and Mandarin Service's Fred Wang also contributed to this report.
Interactive Timeline: The Life of Nelson Mandela