Yonden Lhatoo
SCMP Columnist
Just Saying
by Yonden Lhatoo
Just Saying
by Yonden Lhatoo

The Nobel Peace Prize was always a joke; now it’s a total circus

Yonden Lhatoo questions the credibility and importance of the Nobel Peace Prize, with China-baiting US politicians nominating three Hong Kong student leaders for the award

If you look past all that hype, the Nobel Peace Prize has long been a laughing stock, but it has now, to all intents and purposes, been reduced to a total political circus, with none of the gravitas still commanded by its sister awards for scientific and academic advancement.

When realpolitik power-broker Henry Kissinger won it in 1973, the celebrated American satirical songwriter Tom Lehrer famously quipped that the award had just about rendered political satire obsolete.

That was because the world beyond the Norwegian Nobel Committee was calling Kissinger a war criminal for his culpability in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973. Photo : Alamy

There have been other highly undeserving winners over the years since, and even more ludicrous nominations as well.

Which is why I’m not overly incredulous that a bunch of China-hating, Beijing-baiting US politicians are seeking to make Nobel laureates this year of Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang – student leaders of the 2014 Occupy protests and darlings of the Western media.

Why Hong Kong Occupy trio are my Nobel Peace Prize guys

In a hyperbole-filled sales pitch to Oslo, the congressional nominators painted the trio, who are now the youthful faces of anti-Beijing politics in this city, as “champions of peace and freedom and Hong Kong’s entire pro-democracy movement”.

“The government can lock up our bodies but they cannot lock up our minds!” they admiringly quoted Wong as declaring, unabashedly aggrandising the student activist to the lofty level of Mahatma Gandhi, the global symbol of non-violent struggle whom he borrowed and adapted those famous words from.

Mahatma Gandhi was rejected for the prize multiple times. Photo: Alamy

How ironic that the Nobel committee, which rejected India’s independence icon and giant of history no less than five times for the peace prize, is now being asked to award it to a political pygmy by comparison.

When will people looking at and judging Hong Kong from the outside realise that we have no martyrs for democracy here, only muppets masquerading as them.

The only champions of peace and freedom in this city are the people of Hong Kong themselves who demand and enjoy it every day. Sure, we could use some more democracy and electoral reform, but we’re nothing like the oppressed, rights-starved masses that we’re regularly portrayed as by the Western narrative.

China rebukes ‘meddling’ US congressmen over Nobel Peace Prize nomination for Hong Kong’s Joshua Wong

It’s quite obvious that there are no noble intentions behind this Nobel nomination – only a cynical attempt to troll China – but let’s also question the significance and relevance of the award itself these days.

At the end of the day, the peace prize is a political tool for spreading the Scandinavian brand of cultural imperialism, a sadly diminished honour bandied about once a year by a largely insignificant country with little to zero other means to seek relevance on the global stage.

Why are we still giving the time of day to a cabal of purported intellectuals huddled together in Oslo to spread their confused vision of a better world in such a questionable manner?

It’s high time we had an untainted alternative for this part of the planet – and I’m glad to see the Shaw Prize and Lui Che Woo Prize laying the preliminary groundwork for such a future.

In his will, Alfred Nobel envisioned his peace prize would be awarded to those “who have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.

You know who would be a worthy recipient in that context? The nuclear bomb itself. God knows it’s done more for world peace than anyone else as a grim deterrent against the apocalypse.

We’re all watching an annual freak show anyway.

Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: The Nobel Peace Prize was always a joke; now it’s a circus