Liu Xiaobo

Romantic, patriot, or just a prize fool?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 November, 2011, 12:00am


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When the Confucius Peace Prize was announced shortly after the dissident Liu Xiaobo won last year's Nobel Peace Prize, many queried the background of the mysterious award.

It even became the subject of ridicule when a young girl received the award on behalf of the honorary chairman of Taiwan's Kuomintang, Lien Chan, who said he knew nothing about the award.

Beijing-based poet Qiao Damo said he came up with the idea for the Confucius prize in reaction to Liu receiving the Nobel prize.

'I dislike Liu because some years ago I read his articles and he said that China needs to be colonised for 300 years before being prosperous,' Qiao said. 'It was wrong for the Nobel committee to award him the prize.'

Qiao, who says he has written poems for two decades and is also engaged in researching Buddhism, said he thought of establishing China's own peace prize to express its voice on peace and human rights.

At the end of November last year, Qiao discussed the Confucius prize with his friend Dr Tan Changliu, who owns a small business in Beijing. They decided to unveil the award hastily, with the goal of staging a presentation on December 9, a day before the Nobel prize ceremony.

Qiao hand-picked six candidates for last year's Confucius prize in just two hours, including himself. Facing opposition from other organisers, Qiao insisted in putting him himself in the line-up, saying he was a poet who advocated world peace and that having a poet as a candidate would make the prize 'more romantic'.

He asked four professors in Beijing, most of them his friends, to form a panel that named Tan its chairman.

The Confucius prize was organised in the name of the Chinese Local Art Association, affiliated with the Ministry of Culture. Qiao was once a vice-director of the association's 'cultural protection department'.

But the authorities have since distanced themselves from the award, announcing on the ministry's website in September that this year's event had been cancelled and Qiao's old department disbanded.

Tan split with Qiao in June after a row and set up a similar Confucius World Peace Prize with a culture fund, also administered by the ministry, but that too was scrapped by authorities last month.

Undeterred, Qiao said the Confucius Peace Prize would be staged next month by his Hong Kong-registered company. Zhang Houbang, head of the Chinese Local Art Association, has denied it is connected to the Confucius prize in any way.