Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) condoles with a family member at the memorial service of Ni Zhifu, a former member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and former president of the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), in Beijing, capital of China, May 2, 2013. Ni died at the age of 79 on Wednesday last week. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)
BEIJING, May 2 (Xinhua) -- A representative of China's first generation of model workers was mourned Thursday at a ceremony that was attended by President Xi Jinping.
Ni Zhifu, a former member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and former president of the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), died at the age of 79 on Wednesday last week.
Premier Li Keqiang, top legislator Zhang Dejiang, top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng, senior leader Liu Yunshan, senior leader Wang Qishan, vice premier Zhang Gaoli and former Chinese president Hu Jintao joined Xi at the farewell ceremony and expressed their condolences.
Ni began his career in industry as an apprentice and became well-known nationwide at the age of 20 in 1953 for his invention of the multi-bit drill, which is widely-used today.
He was praised by the World Intellectual Property Organization as "an outstanding innovator" for inventing the bit which could drill through a 40-millimetre stainless steel plate within about 30 seconds and was made more efficient through improvements in the following years.
In 1959, Ni was awarded the title of "model worker," one of the highest ranking titles for the working class.
Several years later, he began his political career. He served as a leading official of Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin municipalities between the 1970s and 1980s and gradually became a state leader.
He was also a former vice-chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee.
Ni's death was a few days before International Workers' Day on May 1, when outstanding workers are honored.
Ahead of Workers' Day, Xi paid tribute to outstanding workers, saying, "working hard is the most honorable, noblest, greatest and most beautiful virtue."
The working class is a reliable and firm foundation for the CPC, as well as a primary force in building a moderately prosperous society, the president said at the ACFTU where Ni had been chairman.
Xi said he expected the working class to set an example in realizing the country's collective dream of national revival.
He described the unions' role as a bridge between the CPC and workers and an important social pillar for the regime of a socialist country.
Xi pledged to protect the rights and interests of workers and ensure social justice so that all workers can live a dignified life.