|What now for the Confucius prize?|
| [01.10.2011, 12:13pm, Sat. GMT]|
|Taiwan Former vice president Lien Chan may go down in history as the first — and last — “winner” of the Confucius Peace Prize, after the Chinese Ministry of Culture reportedly ordered that this year’s award ceremony should be scrapped.Or maybe not.|
The news out of Beijing about the prize, and who organizes it, is just as mixed up and farcical as it was last year, when a group of academics and other “Chinese patriots” announced the award and then went on to present it just one day before the Nobel committee in Norway awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
The Confucius prize had first been suggested in an opinion piece in the Global Times, owned by Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, shortly after the award to Liu had been announced to much gnashing of teeth and howls of protest in Beijing. The apparatchiks condemned the award to Liu as a Western plot against China that had hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. Lo and behold, just three weeks later, a group headed by “Confucius Peace Prize jury chairman” Tan Changliu announced that Lien had won the inaugural Confucius award for his contribution to the development of cross-strait relations and world peace.
At the time, Tan said his organization was a private group with no links to the Chinese government and that they had been preparing for years to create an award to promote world peace from an “Eastern” perspective. Most people had a hard time believing him.
At the award ceremony in Beijing, which was even more chaotic than the initial press conference, Lien was a no-show and a little girl was hauled up before the cameras to accept the stack of cash that was supposed to be the US$15,000 prize. A brochure handed out at the ceremony declared that given its huge population, China should have more of a say about world peace than tiny Norway.
Undeterred by last year’s mess, earlier this month the China Native Art Association’s Culture Protection Bureau announced its list of candidates for this year’s Confucius prize: the Beijing-appointed Panchen Lama (as opposed to the one recognized by the Dalai Lama), Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, South African President Jacob Zuma and 81-year-old Chinese agricultural scientist Yuan Longping, who first developed hybrid rice species in the 1970s.
The clear winner on that list would appear to be Yuan, whose contribution to crop productivity helped reduce famine in many areas and thereby contributed to world peace as much as Kenya’s environmental campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai did with her tree-planting and campaigns to empower rural women. Given the choice of Lien, however, the jury would probably go for Putin.
This week, the art association announced in a message on the culture ministry Web site that the bureau had been disbanded and the second Confucius award was canceled. The ministry said the bureau had not received permission to promote the event and again disavowed any connection to the prize.
Yet that same day the award’s chairman said there would still be an award ceremony in December and that other organizations were competing to sponsor the prize.
Perhaps it was all the embarrassing headlines surrounding last year’s debacle — not good considering Beijing’s push to get its Confucius Institutes into more countries and universities. Or perhaps the Beijing mandarins don’t want another reminder of how far they have strayed from Confucius’ own teachings that stressed the need for moral rulers, leading by example and judicial equality.
Given his belief that an “oppressive government is fiercer and more feared than a tiger,” Confucius might have found himself sharing a jail cell with Liu instead of dining with the elite at Zhongnanhai.
(Editorial - Taipei Times)