Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan’s (連戰) office yesterday dismissed a report by The Associated Press (AP) that Beijing had chosen him as the recipient of the Confucius Peace Award and would award him the prize today.
“We’ve never heard of such an award and of course Mr Lien has no plans to accept it,” said Ting Yuan-chao (丁遠超), director and spokesman of Lien’s office.
The KMT yesterday also denied having any knowledge of the the award, but defended his contributions to cross-strait developments.
“The KMT is not aware of the news and it would be more appropriate to comment on the matter after we make sure there’s such an award and learn the details,” KMT Spokesman Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) said.
“Nonetheless, Mr Lien has made tremendous contributions to peaceful cross-strait relations,” he added.
In April 2005, Lien, a former vice president, became the first KMT chairman to visit China since 1949. He met Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) during what was described as an “ice-breaking” visit and initiated a regular communication platform for the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party.
Beijing offered Lien two giant pandas as a goodwill gift for Taiwan.
Lien developed even closer relations with top Chinese officials after stepping down as party chairman in August 2005.
The AP report said the award was first suggested by a Chinese tabloid last month as an answer to the Nobel Peace Prize won by Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) for his struggle to implement democracy in China.
This became a reality three weeks later, as AP said it had received a statement from the committee confirming the award and the name of the honoree.
“Named after the famed philosopher, the new prize was created to interpret the viewpoints of peace of [the] Chinese [people], the awards committee said in a statement it released to the AP on Tuesday,” the report said.
The article also cited the chairman of the award committee, Tan Changliu (譚長流), as saying his group was not an official government body, but did work closely with the Chinese Ministry of Culture.
Lien, 75, was reportedly chosen from among a number of nominees, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, former South African president Nelson Mandela, former US president Jimmy Carter, and the Beijing-appointed Panchen Lama, the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism.
The report quoted the award committee as saying that Lien was selected for “having built a bridge of peace between the mainland and Taiwan.”
Later yesterday, KMT Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) said Lien deserved the prize for his dedication to promoting cross-strait peace and avoiding conflict, adding that he should receive the prize in person.
“This is an honor. We are very happy for him,” KMT caucus secretary-general Lin Tsang-min (林滄敏) said in a telephone interview with the Taipei Times.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said the prize did not reflect what Confucius (孔子) would have wanted.
DPP spokesperson Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) said that he was unaware of the news, but added that he did not believe the award should be taken seriously.
“I’m sure that if Confucius were alive today, he would have given the peace prize to Liu Xiaobo and not Lien Chan,” he said. “Confucius would have probably sided more with the Nobel Committee anyway.”
Former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said he hadn’t heard of the award, but added that it sounded “weird,” saying it went against some of Confucius’ sayings.
“I guess I wish Lien all the best,” Hsieh said.
DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said Lien should use the opportunity to speak out and criticize Beijing over its treatment of Liu, who is serving a jail sentence for participating in the Charter 08 movement.
To do otherwise, Kuan said, would be an “affront to peace-loving people around the world.”
Additional reporting by Vincent Y. Chao, Flora Wang and CNA
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