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Quake-hit students spend joyous day with President Hu before heading for Russia

Chinese president Hu Jintao talks with students from quake-hit areas who visit Zhongnanhai in Beijing before going to Russia for further recuperation on Wednesday, July 16, 2008. The first group of 181 children from China's quake-hit provinces of Sichuan and Shaanxi will fly to Russia on Thursday for a three-week recuperative vacation. (Xinhua Photo)

    BEIJING, July 16 (Xinhua) -- As the special guests of Chinese President Hu Jintao, 88 students from the quake-hit areas on Wednesday visited Zhongnanhai, the compound of central authorities, and had a joyous time with grandpa Hu before going to Russia for recuperation.

    "I hope all you schoolmates will rest well and recover as soon as possible with the help of Chinese and Russian teachers. I also hope that you will take this rare opportunity to make friends with Russian pals and be the little envoys for our two countries," Hu told the children.

    These middle and elementary school students, who come from western China's Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces severely stricken by the May 12 earthquake, represent 1,000 children who are going to Russia for further recovery.

    The children had a wonderful time visiting the beautiful sceneries in Zhongnanhai, asking officials' innocent questions and taking pictures with big smiles.

    Hu, with arms around several students, asked for their names, grades, hometowns and their feelings for traveling to Russia.

    Informed that some of the children had lost their parents during the quake, Hu said, "In the homeland's big family, you have many more parents. We will help arrange your life and study well, and ensure that you grow up as happy and healthy as all the other children."

    Hu carefully examined the injuries on some children and expressed the hope that they would, after coming through the calamity, become braver and tougher to overcome any difficulty in their future life.

    Hu urged the students to help each other when going out of the country and wished them a wonderful time in Russia.

    During the activity, Hu also met with a senior official with the Russian embassy to China and expressed his gratitude for all the help Russia offered since the quake.

    "During the disaster, the Russian government and people offered us timely help, and you invited more than 1,000 quake-hit middle and primary school students to go to Russia for recovery. All these show Russian people's love for the Chinese. And it once again proves that we two countries are real good neighbors and friends," said Hu.

    The death toll from the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan Province, southwest China, stood at 69,197 as of Wednesday noon, and a total of 18,238 people were still missing.

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