Confucius advocated order and harmony. But an award said to be offered in his name has shown scant evidence of either.
The Confucius Peace Prize was founded last December with much fanfare by a group of businessmen and artists.
It was conceived as a patriotic act, and announced in response to the furore surrounding the Nobel Peace Prize award to jailed democracy activist Liu Xiaobo – a choice that had both angered and embarrassed Beijing.
But last week it emerged that the group had been forced to disband and that a rival organisation had been authorised to issue a new prize instead, to be known as the Confucius World Peace Prize.
The organisers of the first prize are livid and have vowed to continue with the award, even though they are reportedly being watched by the security services themselves.
The Confucius Peace Prize was marked by controversy throughout its short existence. The first recipient of the award, Taiwanese vice-president Lien Chan, told journalists he had never heard of it. Nor did he bother to travel to China to collect his award.
The creation of the prize has also led to some rather unpleasant comparisons. The German authorities also dreamed up an alternative to the Nobel prize, after the anti-fascist writer Carl Von Ossietsky won the award in 1935.
But the real problem seems to have been that the committee has not sought permission from China’s Ministry of Culture to offer the prize.
According to a group linked to the award, the Chinese Native Art Association, authorities moved to kill the prize after the latest nominees (including Vladimir Putin, Jacob Zuma, Angela Merkel and the Panchen Lama) were announced without seeking official approval.
Jiang Ye, the deputy general secretary of the group running the ‘new’ Confucius prize told the New York Times that the original award had been “a total failure”.
He also said that organisers should never have presented it as a homegrown alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize.
“This is not the attitude a great nation like China should have, and it is not the wisdom that Confucius represents,” Jiang told the newspaper.
Liu Haofeng, the original prize’s founder, riposted that he was being squeezed out by people with power and money.
China’s media has been largely quiet on the issue, but Richard Burger, a popular Western blogger and a public relations expert based in Shanghai, said the whole episode had been a debacle.
“Now, once again China faces smirks as the world witnesses the internal disarray that seems to spell the end of the Confucius Peace Prize. And once again, the story of Liu Xiabo’s imprisonment and his winning the Nobel prize gets churned up,” Burger remarked.
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