Fidel Castro has been awarded China's version of the Nobel Peace Prize. The former Cuban leader beat more than 20 nominees including South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a regional group led by Moscow and Beijing, to win this year's Confucius Peace Prize, the mainland's state-run Global Times reported. The Cuban revolutionary was selected by nine judges out of a group of 16 experts and scholars. "While in office, Castro didn't resort to violence or force to settle disputes in international relations, especially with the United States," the Global Times wrote. "After his retirement, he has been actively meeting with leaders and groups from all over the world and has made important contributions to emphasising the need to eliminate nuclear war," it added. The Confucius prize was first given out in 2010, when it was awarded to Taiwan's Lien Chan. However, the suddenness of the announcement and the timing - just two days before jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, much to Beijing's anger - sparked claims it had been set up under the government's guidance. A Cuban exchange student received this year's award on Castro's behalf at a ceremony on Tuesday, one day before Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi accepted their joint Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. Since leaving office in 2006 during a nearly fatal health crisis, Castro, 88, has spent his free time writing books and articles for the official press in Cuba, which now is led by his younger brother Raul. The Foreign Ministry yesterday denied any government connection to the Confucius Peace Prize. The award was "organised by a civil organisation in China, which showcases their aspirations for world peace", spokesman Hong Lei said. In 2011 the ministry ordered organisers to scrap the Confucius prize, but academics pressed ahead and awarded it to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Chinese agricultural scientist Yuan Longping shared the award in 2012. Yi Cheng, a Zen master who is the honorary head of the Buddhist Association of China, was awarded it last year.