Lien a no-show for ‘Confucius Prize’

Reuters, BEIJING

Fri, Dec 10, 2010 - Page 1

It was meant to be China’s answer to the Nobel Peace Prize, a timely riposte to the honoring of jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波). But the winner of the first “Confucius Peace Prize” didn’t even show up.

Instead, it was left to a scared-looking girl, whom organizers did not properly identify, to collect a stack of bills for the US$15,000 cash prize meant for former vice president Lien Chan (連戰).

Lien had won the prize for his efforts to improve relations between China and Taiwan.

“We believe that Mr Lien Chan, with his knowledge, dignity, and political wisdom, would not refuse peace, and he would not refuse this prize,” Confucius Prize organizer Tan Changliu (譚長流) told a packed news conference in Beijing.

Lien has not commented publicly on the prize.

Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) told lawmakers in Taipei that the government found the prize “amusing.”

“As far as we know it is an unofficial prize. We don’t plan to make any comment on it,” she said. “But we do find it amusing.”

Lien traveled to China in 2005 in his then capacity as chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

He has since visited China numerous times and had several meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).

The prize, offered before more than 100 journalists in a cramped windowless conference room in a Beijing office block, was first suggested in an opinion piece in the Chinese tabloid the Global Times three weeks ago.

Tan said China’s prize had nothing to do with the government.