June 9 (UPI) — Xi Jinping stressed the importance of Chinese unity during a visit to China’s Qinghai Lake in the Tibetan Plateau, where he appeared with a group of officials without face masks.
State media coverage of the visit Tuesday came as China struggles to vaccinate its population and a major city near Hong Kong battles the Delta COVID variant.
Xi, who stayed mask-free during the visit, called for solidarity across China’s various ethnic groups in a region that is majority Tibetan.
“We are all brothers and sisters. On the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese nation will inevitably stand stronger among the peoples of the world,” Xi said, according to People’s Daily on Wednesday.
“The Chinese nation will be united like [clustered] pomegranate seeds, and tomorrow will be better,” the Chinese leader added.
Xi’s visit focused on protecting biodiversity and addressing China’s environmental issues, according to CGTN.
Beijing previously claimed victory over the coronavirus and has publicly championed the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines.
But Xi, unlike other world leaders, has not been vaccinated in public.
Most of China’s population of 1.4 billion also has yet to be vaccinated, and the spread of the Delta variant in southern China is raising questions about the efficacy of Chinese vaccines.
The Seychelles and Mongolia have reported large numbers of infections, despite high rates of vaccination using China-made vaccines, the New York Times reported Wednesday.
China’s new COVID epicenter is Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. According to the Times, the city has ordered its population of 18.7 million to undergo tests between Sunday and Tuesday, after each infected person spread the virus to more people than in past outbreaks.
Entire neighborhoods are in complete lockdown, with no people allowed outside unless they are being tested, the report said.
Businesses in China say they expect current travel restrictions to be in place until February, and possibly until fall 2022, according to the report.