China reveals shortlist for its alternative to Nobel prize


STILL FUMING over the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo, China has announced the shortlist for this year’s Confucius Peace Prize, which features Thailand’s prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of disgraced ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

The shortlist also includes, for the third time, Gyaltsen Norbu, the 22-year-old controversially named by Beijing to be the second most powerful figure in Tibetan Buddhism, the Panchen Lama (the original boy chosen by the Dalai Lama was kidnapped in 1995 and has not been seen since).

Also on the list is social activist Wang Dingguo, the sole surviving woman to have taken part in Mao Zedong’s Long March during the Chinese civil war.

The prize is named after the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius, whose teachings have become a crucial part of contemporary Communist Party thinking.

The shortlist also includes former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan and his successor Ban Ki-moon, Peking University professor Tang Yijie and the agricultural scientist Yuan Longping.

The prize was started by the China International Peace Research Centre, and last year it was awarded to Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader. The first prize went to Lien Chan, former Taiwan leader.

A driving force behind the prize is the Peking University professor and ultra-nationalist Kong Qingdong, who is himself a 73rd-generation offspring of Confucius. He caused a scandal earlier in the year when he said people from Hong Kong were “dogs” and “thieves”.

The organising committee said it was created to provide a platform for Chinese people to voice their opinions on peace, and it criticised overseas media for labelling it as an “attempt to counter” the Nobel Peace Prize. They felt the Nobel prize does not reflect “the interests of the East”.

The Nobel Prize is attractive to China because of its international prestige, but the government is furious because it has gone to some of the Communist Party’s least favourite Chinese, notably the Dalai Lama and jailed dissident Liu.

“I hope the prize can provide a platform for Chinese to have their voices on peace heard by the world, Liu Zhiqin, a consultant working with the organising committee, told the Global Times newspaper.

The idea of the prize was first floated in an editorial in the same newspaper, and last year the ministry of culture declared that the prize had nothing to do with an association affiliated with it.

The award ceremony will be held in early December, probably one day before the Nobel Prize is awarded, according to the organisers.

* This article was amended on September 17th, 2012