(AFP) – Sep 17, 2011
BEIJING — China's controversial choice as the Panchen Lama and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are both in the running for a Chinese alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize, an organiser said Saturday.
The "Confucius Peace Prize" emerged for the first time last year, when it was suddenly announced by a shadowy group two days before jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel amid furious protests from Beijing.
Members of the jury at the time, many of them professors, denied links to China's government or suggestions their prize -- which they awarded to Lien Chan, a former Taiwan vice-president -- was in response to the Nobel.
But as he announced the candidates for this year's prize on Saturday, the award's executive chairman Liu Haofeng told AFP it had been set up by an association overseen by China's culture ministry.
Liu said the candidates include the Panchen Lama -- the second highest Tibetan Buddhist leader -- who was hand-picked by the Chinese government, which rejected the boy chosen by the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.
Other candidates include Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, South African President Jacob Zuma, and Yuan Longping, a Chinese agricultural scientist known as the father of hybrid rice. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and former UN secretary general Kofi Annan are also among those being considered for the award.
Liu said this year's jury panel, which consists of 20 Chinese people from the fields of arts, literature, and with an interest in politics, had picked the Panchen Lama as a candidate for his role in "promoting harmony in China."
Merkel, meanwhile, was chosen for "her contribution to regional peace in Europe."
"We want to remind her that she should pay attention to Eastern values," he said, adding the winner would be announced on December 9 -- a day before the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo -- and awarded 100,000 yuan ($15,700).
Liu, an artist, said the award had been established to reflect "global values."
"Last year, it was done a bit too much in a hurry, but we received a good reaction," he said.
He denied the purpose of the Confucius award was to counter the Nobel Peace Prize -- which counts US President Barack Obama and former South African leader Nelson Mandela among its laureates.
But he said the Nobel had "limitations" and neglected "the interests of the East."
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