China chooses Taiwan politician for rival ‘peace prize’

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

BEIJING - A group of Chinese scholars Wednesday said they had chosen veteran Taiwanese politician Lien Chan for the first Confucius Peace Prize, a rapidly organised award that some have touted as a potential rival to the Nobel Peace Prize.

Lien, the honorary chairman of Taiwan’s Kuomintang (KMT), or Nationalist Party, was chosen for the prize because he had “built a bridge of peace between the mainland and Taiwan”, the group said.

It said Lien was selected from eight candidates, including Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas; Microsoft founder Bill Gates; former South African President Nelson Mandela; former US President Jimmy Carter; and Yuan Longping, an agricultural scientist known in China as the “father of hybrid rice”.

The award of the Confucius Peace Prize would be announced formally in Beijing Thursday, Tan Changliu, the head of the organising committee, told DPA.

An award ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year prison sentence for subversion, is scheduled for Friday in Oslo.

China’s ruling Communist Party was angered by the award to Liu, who co-organised the Charter ‘08 for democratic reform.

It has lobbied other nations to boycott Friday’s ceremony in Oslo and placed dozens of prominent rights activists under house arrest or close surveillance.

But Tan denied the Confucius award had any links to the government or that it was intended to rival the Nobel prize.

“We are not rivals to anyone. We are just developing peace through peace. We are not willing to counter or criticise,” he said.

Tan, 49, is a writer and editor of philosophy books, while at least three of the other members of the Confucius prize committee are professors at Beijing universities.

The committee said it agreed to award the prize to Lien Sunday after a “very long discussion”.

It said the Confucius prize was designed to give China “a greater voice on the issue of world peace”.

The idea of creating the prize was apparently first mentioned publicly in an opinion piece in the state-run Global Times newspaper Nov 15, five weeks after the announcement of Liu as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

“The Nobel Peace Prize Committee won Liu Xiaobo while losing the trust of 1.3 billion Chinese people,” Liu Zhiqin, the chief representative in Beijing for Switzerland’s Zurich Bank, said in the commentary.

Setting up a Confucius Peace Prize would be “the best opportunity for the Chinese to declare China’s view of peace and human rights to the world,” Liu said.

Lien is a former vice-president of Taiwan and former chairman of the KMT, which has ruled Taiwan under President Ma Ying-jeou since May 2008.

The Communist Party sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be “reunified” with mainland China, by force if necessary.

Lien is credited with building ties with the Communist Party while the KMT was in opposition.

He has held several high-profile meetings with President Hu Jintao and other Communist Party leaders since a landmark visit to China in 2005.

Taiwan and China have been rivals since the KMT fled to the island at the end of a civil war in 1949, after which the Communist Party founded the People’s Republic of China.

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