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Chinese 'peace prize' ditched after one year

October 7, 2011

Association calls off award for breaking regulations 2 weeks after unveiling 2011 line-up

Priscilla Jiao, Updated on Sep 30, 2011

The controversial "Confucius Peace Prize", unveiled hastily last year after jailed mainland dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize amid furious protests from Beijing, has suddenly been cancelled.
The award this year was scrapped for "violating relevant regulations", the organisers' parent association said in a letter posted on the Ministry of Culture website.

The Chinese Local Art Association, which itself is overseen by the ministry, also said the organisers, known as the "cultural protection department", had been disbanded.

The department was not authorised to stage such an event and had "severely breached regulations on social organisations", it said. It addressed the letter to the department, which had set up the prize.

Separately, an information officer at the ministry said there would be no such prize in future.

Two weeks ago, the organisers announced candidates who were in the running for this year's prize. Analysts said the choices baffled the public.

The line-up included Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, known for his dictatorial style, and the 21-year-old 11th Panchen Lama hand-picked by Beijing. Others included Microsoft founder Bill Gates, German Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel, South African President Jacob Zuma, Yuan Longping , a Chinese agricultural scientist called "the father of hybrid rice", and Taiwanese politician James Soong Chu-yu.

Liu Zhiqin, a consultant to this year's prize, was quoted by the Chinese-language Global Times newspaper as saying that the candidates had "contributed considerably to world or regional peace".

Zhu Dake , a well-known culture critic at Shanghai's Tongji University, said the prize was worthless "in terms of [raising] cultural standards and it's bound to confuse public judgment of cultural value".

The many similar prizes nowadays ran the risk of degenerating into commercial, profit-making tools for organisers using eye-catching names, he said.

The first Confucius prize went to former Taiwanese vice-president Lien Chan, though Lien, unaware of the proceedings, did not show up to claim it. Instead, the prize was presented to a small girl whom organisers declined to identify. It came with a 100,000 yuan (HK$118,000) cash award.

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