Planet China

Confused prize

Previous winners of the Confucius Peace Prize have included Fidel Castro and Vladimir Putin. But some overseas pundits were even more shocked by the latest choice: Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe. The committee has given him the award for “injecting fresh energy into the quest for global harmony”. According to the Global Times, the 91 year-old – who has run Zimbabwe (some would say into the ground) for 35 years – beat out Bill Gates and South Korean leader Park Geun-hye to win the award. The statement from the prize committee said Mugabe had helped “improve the welfare of the Zimbabwean people by overcoming hardship”. The secretary general of Zimbabwe’s opposition People’s Democratic Party begged to differ, telling the Bulawayo 24 news website that he was “utterly disgusted” by the Chinese tribute for a “war-monger”.

The chairman of the selection committee for the Confucius prize – an ‘honour’ which was first conferred in 2010 – told the UK’s Guardian that though Zimbabwe’s economy is “lagging behind” Mugabe deserved the award for making it a “very stable country”. Mugabe got 36 votes of the 76 available on the committee, with one other member conceding to the Guardian that “frankly speaking, there were internal concerns about awarding Mugabe the peace prize. I myself have reservations. Mugabe has been in power such a long time that he could easily be labelled a dictator, tyrant or despot.”

Then again, the committee shouldn’t have counted on any gratitude from Mugabe himself. The New York Times, quoting a local Zimbabwean news agency, has said that he has rejected the prize after learning it has nothing to do with the Chinese government.

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