A senior official from the People's Republic of China, Li Lanqing, one of four vice premiers on China's State Council, said he thoroughly enjoyed his recent visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Mr. Li was welcomed at the center Nov. 12 by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve and Elder Loren C. Dunn of the Seventy and president of the North America West Area."It was a wonderful experience," said Elder Nelson. "It was nice to become acquainted with this distinguished gentleman and his group of leaders from the People's Republic of China. He was pleased to find that there were several Chinese students here. Some attend BYU-Hawaii, and some were interning at the Polynesian Cultural Center, learning how to care for guests at tourist facilities."
This was the second visit this year by a vice premier from the People's Republic of China. Last May, Vice Premier Zou Jiahua was welcomed to the center.
Mr. Li was accompanied by his wife, Madame Zhang Suzhen, and by the Chinese ambassador to the United States, Li Daoyu. They were accompanied by more than 20 members of their delegation, staff members, and members of the Chinese consulate from Los Angeles.
Li Lanqing is the vice premier of the People's Republic of China in charge of foreign trade, economic development, education and other activities, including religious affairs. His visit to the center was the last stop in a two-week visit "to promote bilateral relationships, especially the economic linkages between our two countries."
When the vice premier arrived, he was escorted to the center's board room for a short meeting with his hosts, who also included Lester Moore, president of the Polynesian Cultural Center; Dr. Eric B. Shumway, president of BYU-Hawaii; and Pres. Albert Y.G. Ho of the Hawaii Temple.
Brother Moore welcomed the guests and referred to some of Elder Nelson's medical experiences in the People's Republic of China before his calling as an apostle. A heart surgeon, Elder Nelson performed a number of operations and taught many surgeons there. He has been awarded honorary professorships from three Chinese universities for his contributions.
Elder Nelson explained the unique relationship and partnership between the center, BYU-Hawaii and the temple. Pointing to a painting of the Savior, and to photos of the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve on the board room wall, Elder Nelson outlined the structure and beliefs of the Church.
Elder Nelson surprised his guests by speaking in Mandarin Chinese.
The vice premier commented: "You speak good Chinese. You sit on my side of the table. Ambassador Li, you sit on their side of the table."
The vice premier said: "I am very pleased to have this wonderful evening together which symbolizes the strengthening of cultural exchanges between our people and friendship between our two countries.
"Our world is filled with diverse cultures and although the performance this evening only shows a small part of the cultures of this world, it has enabled us to see how colorful this world is and how diversified our cultures are."
At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Li presented small gifts to Elder Nelson, Brother Moore and the others, and then surprised his audience of nearly 100 by singing in English the Scottish farewell folk song, "Auld Lang Syne." The audience joined in the song.
Touched by the spontaneous gesture, Elder Nelson responded, "With the song of Vice Premier Li ever in our memory, we reflect on the unity we feel tonight. We are grateful for your visit and hope you will take our love to the great people of China.
"We thank you for your gracious gifts and for the wonderful work you are doing. We hope you will remember our affection for you. We wish to give you a gift of great value, a gift that is beyond price, the gift of the book that brings us all together tonight, the Book of Mormon," he said.
Following the ceremony, Mr. Li and the Chinese delegation took a canoe tour of the center's seven islands, with dancing groups greeting them at their respective canoe landings. Mr. Li waved, clapped and smiled in response to their cultural expressions of welcome.
Elder Nelson commented: "Our guests enjoyed not only seeing their own Chinese students there, but they also enjoyed the message of the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is that you can cherish and perpetuate your own culture, but at the same time, co-mingle as fellow students and fellow citizens with the Saints. They really felt the unity and spirit of the Polynesian Cultural Center and BYU-Hawaii – brotherhood among men in action."
"He noticed the harmony among the people there and he was particularly quick to notice that a Samoan man was singing with the Tongans, and the Tahitians were singing with the Fijians, and so on," said Elder Nelson.
"He is an exceptionally intelligent man. As we would visit each of the villages, Lester Moore would give him the greeting in Tahitian or Tongan, and so on, and he would hear it once, and repeat it perfectly, and speak it out loud as he went to greet the people."
Elder Nelson said the vice premier enjoyed his visit tremendously, and was very impressed with the Polynesian Cultural Center and its director, Brother Moore.