On 8 February, Beijing hosted a reception for the Lunar New Year, China's ancient spring holiday.
The reception was attended by about 300 guests, among them former Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Li Huilai, senior officials of Chinese ministries and agencies, heads of diplomatic missions from SCO member states, observers and dialogue partners, ambassadors from the CIS, the European Union and other states accredited in Beijing, as well as heads of international organisations' offices in China. Also invited were prominent scientists, politicians and public figures, business leaders, and representatives of the Chinese and foreign media.
In his welcome speech, SCO Secretary-General Rashid Alimov said that the tradition of celebrating the spring holiday together reflected the principles outlined in the SCO Charter, which will mark its 15th anniversary this year. "Today, 18 countries of the world have gathered under the emerald and blue flag of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation — countries whose peoples live in an atmosphere of friendship and mutual understanding," Mr Alimov said. "A shining example was the first SCO Marathon which united the Shanghai spirit and the spirit of sport. Today the SCO serves as a beacon to every second person in the world, and the Shanghai spirit is a guiding light to many of them."
The Secretary-General said that the leaders of the SCO founding countries urge their peoples to join efforts in elevating the noble ideals and unshakable principles of the organisation. "Ahead of the SCO Summit in Astana we can confidently affirm our commitment to building a better, brighter future," he said.
The reception featured a photo exhibition dedicated to the first SCO International Marathon that took place on 17 December 2016 and brought together 15,600 people in Kunming, Yunnan Province. The marathon was a major sporting, entertainment and cultural event.