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China halts shadowy peace prize

30 september 2011, 10:28
Chairman of Confucius Peace Prize Awards Committee Tan Chengliu. ©Reuters
Chairman of Confucius Peace Prize Awards Committee Tan Chengliu. ©Reuters
China's culture ministry has ordered organisers of a shadowy alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize to scrap the ceremony, saying they were not given official permission to promote the event, AFP reports.

The "Confucius Peace Prize" emerged for the first time last year, when it was suddenly announced by a 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, awarded the prize to Taiwan's Lien Chan at a chaotic press conference, although the former vice president's office denied all knowledge of the award.

Earlier this month at a press briefing, organisers announced candidates for this year's prize that included China's controversial choice as the Panchen Lama and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

But China's culture ministry said this week the award's organiser -- the China Native Art Association's Traditional Culture Protection Bureau, which has links to the ministry -- had not received permission to promote the event at the briefing.

"It was decided to stop the (organisation) from holding the Second Annual Confucius Peace Prize award activity," it said in a statement posted on its website.

Nevertheless, the award's executive chairman Liu Haofeng said the ceremony would still go ahead as planned in December, adding that other organisations were competing to sponsor the prize, although he declined to name them.

"It is just the removal of the previous organiser," Liu said.

"The prize is not cancelled. The schedule remains unchanged and the ceremony will be held on December 9."

The award's timing last year sparked intense speculation that it had been set up with Beijing's guidance to counter the Nobel Peace Prize given to Liu, but members of the jury at the time denied links with the government.

Apart from the Panchen Lama and Putin, candidates for the prize this year also include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, South African President Jacob Zuma and Chinese agricultural scientist Yuan Longping.

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