China’s culture ministry has ordered organizers of a shadowy alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize to scrap the ceremony, saying they were not given official permission to promote the event.
The “Confucius Peace Prize” emerged for the first time last year, when it was suddenly announced by a group two days before jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) was awarded the Nobel amid furious protests from Beijing.
Members of the jury at the time, many of them professors, awarded the prize to former Taiwanese vice president Lien Chan (連戰) at a chaotic press conference, although Lien’s office denied all knowledge of the award.
Earlier this month at a press briefing, organizers announced candidates for this year’s prize that included China’s controversial choice, the Panchen Lama, and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
However, the Chinese culture ministry said this week the award’s organizer — the China Native Art Association’s Traditional Culture Protection Bureau, which has links to the ministry — had not received permission to promote the event at the briefing.
“It was decided to stop the [organization] from holding the Second Annual Confucius Peace Prize award activity,” it said in a statement posted on its Web site.
Nevertheless, the award’s executive chairman Liu Haofeng said the ceremony would still go ahead as planned in December, adding that other organizations were competing to sponsor the prize, although he declined to name them.
“It is just the removal of the previous organizer,” Liu said.
“The prize is not canceled. The schedule remains unchanged and the ceremony will be held on Dec. 9,” Liu said.
The award’s timing last year sparked intense speculation that it had been set up with Beijing’s guidance to counter the Nobel Peace Prize given to Liu, but members of the jury at the time denied links with the government.
Apart from the Panchen Lama and Putin, candidates for the prize this year also include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, South African President Jacob Zuma and Chinese agricultural scientist Yuan Longping (袁龍萍).
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