Serbia grants gold medals of merit to Chinese medical team to commemorate co-efforts against COVID-19 and ironclad friendship
Published: Jun 08, 2023 02:34 PM
A group photo of all Chinese laureates with Serbian Ambassador to China Maja Stefanovic (sixth from left) on June 7, 2023. Photo: Hu Yuwei/GT

A group photo of all Chinese laureates with Serbian Ambassador to China Maja Stefanovic (sixth from left) on June 7, 2023. Photo: Hu Yuwei/GT

Serbia's Gold Medals of Merit were conferred on to nine members of a Chinese medical team, who arrived in Serbia at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and, at the Serbian Embassy in China on Tuesday. The ceremony commemorates the difficulties China and Serbia overcame during the epidemic together, and witnesses the ironclad friendship between the two countries.

The laureates were awarded the Gold Medal of Merit and Order of the Serbian Flag of the 1st class respectively for outstanding merits in the cooperation between two countries in the field of genetics scientific research, for the contribution to Serbia in prevention and control of COVID-19, as well as for efforts in promoting mutual understanding between the two peoples.

Awards, the highest state decorations by the Decree of the President of Republic or the occasion of the Statehood Day of the Republic of Serbia - Sretenje, are presented to the deserving individuals and institutions for their outstanding contributions and results.

Serbian Ambassador to China Maja Stefanovic said that China was the first country in the world to provide medical assistance to Serbia. She said that at the most urgent moment, Serbia and China, as comprehensive strategic partners, have worked together to meet many challenges.

In the first half of 2020, nine Chinese medical experts arrived in Serbia to help prevent and control the COVID-19 epidemic. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic greeted the Chinese doctors and welcomed the largest shipment of aid to Serbia which included medical devices and security equipment.

During their stay in Serbia, the medical group visited cities severely affected by the epidemic, exchanged technical knowledge with local medical institutions and public health agencies and brought valuable experience to Serbia in the fight against the epidemic.

Peng Zhiqiang, the head of the medical team, said that the medal represents high recognition from the Serbian government, as well as a deep friendship between the two peoples. 

He said that during the 82 days of fighting against the epidemic in Serbia, the expert team deeply felt the respect and trust of the Serbian people, and witnessed the courage and responsibility of the Serbian government, and the selfless dedication of local medical workers. 

Guo Yubiao, a member of the medical expert team and director of the respiratory and critical care medicine department of the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, said that the aids team involved multiple departments and disciplines. The smooth progress of the medical aid work in Serbia demonstrates China's determination to promote the construction of a global community of health for all through practical actions. 

"Fighting against the COVID-19 epidemic is like running a marathon that lasts for more than three years, and we have successfully crossed the finish line. I believe that no matter what challenges we face in the future, we can work together to overcome difficulties under the guidance of the concept of building a global community of shared future," said Guo.

"More than three years have passed, and I'm still in contact with my friends in Serbia. This medal ceremony has, once again, brought back memories of fighting side by side with them. I'm deeply moved and honored to be able to contribute to deepening the friendship between China and Serbia," said Hou Cailan, another member and the director of the psychological department of the Guangdong Provincial People's Hospital.

Shenzhen-Based Chinese biotech company BGI Group, which helped Serbia build two state-of-the-art Fire Eye laboratories for COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction testing, received the first class of the Order of the Serbian Flag on the ceremony.

The Serbian Government and BGI signed an agreement on April 8, 2020 to entrust BGI to build two Fire Eye testing labs in Serbia. The two labs have greatly improved Serbia's capacity to detect the COVID-19 virus. 

Serbian Ambassador to China Maja Stefanovic (left) confers a medal to a Chinese laureate on June 7, 2023. Photo: Hu Yuwei/GT

Serbian Ambassador to China Maja Stefanovic (left) confers a medal to a Chinese laureate on June 7, 2023. Photo: Hu Yuwei/GT

"President Vucic said when he met with the Chinese medical team that 'you brought not only equipment and reagents, but also confidence and courage for Serbia to overcome the epidemic.' At that moment, we deeply feel that our hard work is worth it," said Xiong Tao, the BGI Group's vice president of international development affairs who led the team of BGI to Serbia in 2020.

Serbia is also the first European country to use a vaccine that was designed, trialed and produced in China.

At the ceremony, the Embassy of Serbia in China also presented the gold Medal for Merit to Chinese writer Chen Danyan in recognition of her contribution to bridging the cultural gap between the two peoples. Chen directed the first Sino-Serbian documentary coproduction Where the Sava Flows, which tells the story of how this land has suffered but its people remain optimistic.

Chen said she felt satisfied to see the two peoples get better connected through her literary works and hopes that the Chinese audiences can understand the perseverance and reliability of the Serbian people through the film, and hopes that Serbian readers can have an in-depth understanding of China from her literary works.