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China's First Astronaut Crowned "Space Hero"

China's first astronaut Yang Liwei was conferred the title of "Space Hero" on Friday at a high-profile rally celebrating the country's first manned space flight.

Yang, 38, was also awarded a badge of honor for his space faring merits at the rally organized by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the State Council and the Central Military Commission.

At the rally attended by top leaders of the country and several thousand others, including space experts, government officials and servicemen, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced the decision by the Party, the central government and the military commission to honor Yang Liwei.

Jiang Zemin, chairman of the military commission, presented the certificate of "Space Hero" and the badge to Yang Liwei.

Addressing the rally, President Hu Jintao praised Yang and others who contributed to the country's manned space program.

China will work with the international community for peaceful use of outer space, said the president, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee.

China launched its Shenzhou-5 manned spacecraft, with astronaut Yang Liwei aboard, on Oct. 15 from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu Province, northwest China.

Yang and his spacecraft orbited the Earth 14 times before safely landing in north China the next day.

The successful launch and return of the spacecraft made China the third country in space after Russia and the United States, and marked the initial success of the manned space program launched in1992.

(Xinhua News Agency November 7, 2003)

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