Confusion Prize brings Beijing doubtful reward

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 December, 2010, 12:00am

Beijing's attempt to seize the media spotlight from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo descended into farce yesterday when the newly created Confucius Peace Prize was handed to a six-year-old girl.

She was standing in for the intended recipient, former Taiwanese vice-president Lien Chan, who was a no-show, with his office saying he was unaware he had been chosen or even that there was such a prize named after the famed Chinese sage.

The event was meant to rival today's ceremony in Norway, at which the imprisoned laureate, Liu Xiaobo , will be honoured for his two decades of non-violent struggle for human rights.

Little Zeng Yuhan , whose background the Confucius award committee refused to reveal, looked puzzled by all the attention at a chaotic news conference and was hidden behind members of the staff as reporters jostled to ask whether she knew why she was there.

'Leave her alone, please. She's just a little girl who knows nothing. She is not as complicated as you think,' a staff member said as she tried to keep reporters away.

The inaugural Confucius prize, which comes with a purse of 100,000 yuan (HK$116,750), puts forward the Chinese 'viewpoint of peace', according to the award committee, which is made up of professors from three Beijing universities.

The prize is based on the ancient Chinese philosopher's idea of harmony, said Tan Changliu , a Beijing Normal University philosophy professor who chairs the award committee.

'Do not do to others what you do not wish others to do to you; and even if it's something one wishes others to do to you, you don't do it to them if they dislike it,' he said, citing a famous Confucian saying in an apparent reference to the Norwegian Nobel committee's decision to honour Liu.

According to a brochure handed out at the news conference, Lien was selected by internet users from among eight nominees - including the 11th Panchen Lama, a mainland poet with a post at the Ministry of Culture and six international figures - for his efforts to build peace between the mainland and Taiwan, However, asked when and on what website the online voting was done, Tan said that, in fact, the organisers failed to carry it out because of 'technical problems'.

As doubts were being raised over the selection of the eight nominees and the winner, Tan said it was 'a very long and complicated process. We can discuss this in the future'.

Two other members of the award committee accompanied Tan, and one nominee presented himself at the ceremony.

Qiao Damo , the mainland poet, spoke on behalf of all the candidates for the award.

He said, 'This prize has linked peace to poetry, making itself full of poetic and pictorial imagination', which caused many in the audience to giggle.

The 100,000 yuan cash prize, Tan said, was donated by 'a person who loves peace and wishes to remain anonymous'.

Tan called his group a non- governmental organisation and denied the prize was motivated by Liu winning the Nobel.

'We don't want to link this peace prize with those three words,' he said, referring to Liu's name.

But the brochure seemed to contradict his explanations. It said that with a population of more than one billion, China should have 'a greater voice on the issue of world peace'.

'Norway is only a small country with scarce land area and population ... it must be in the minority in terms of other relatively large numbers concerning the conception of freedom and democracy,' it said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared the same thinking as the new award's creators. In fresh criticism yesterday of Liu's prize, spokeswoman Jiang Yu said, 'those people at the Nobel committee have to admit they are in the minority. The Chinese people and the overwhelming majority of people in the world oppose what they do.'

Jiang reiterated that 'any attempt to exert pressure on China' would not succeed and called US lawmakers who voted overwhelmingly to honour Liu arrogant.

Xinhua published an English-language commentary on Wednesday accusing the West of launching a new round of China-bashing ahead of today's event in Oslo.

'Liu has done everything he could to subvert the Chinese government, and that suits the strategy of some organisations and people in the West towards China', the commentary said, explaining why the Nobel committee chose Liu as the winner.