x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Chinese group to award rival Nobel Peace Prize

Chinese group says it plans to award 'The Confucius Peace Prize' as Beijing ramps up efforts to discredit Nobel's choice of jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo.

BEIJING // A shadowy Chinese group said Wednesday it planned to award a rival version of the Nobel Peace Prize as Beijing ramps up efforts to discredit the Nobel’s choice of jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo.

The "Confucius Peace Prize" will be awarded on Thursday to former Taiwan vice president Lien Chan, one of its organisers, Tan Changliu, said.

Tan declined to give details about who was behind the award but denied that his group had any link with China's government.

However, the prize will be awarded just one day before the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo to honour Liu and comes as China has stepped up already fierce criticism of the Nobel Committee.

Deeply embarrassed that the committee honoured a man opposed to its one-party rule, Beijing has placed Liu's wife Liu Xia under house arrest, warned other countries not to attend the ceremony and said ties with Norway would suffer.

On Tuesday, a Chinese government spokeswoman referred to members of the committee as "clowns" and said most of the world opposed Liu's award -- a claim rejected by the committee.

Tan said the Confucius Peace Prize features a cash award of 100,000 yuan ($15,000).

There was so far no indication Lien would come to receive the prize, he said.

"We have contacted Lien Chan but as of now we have no news on whether he would come himself," he said.

Lien, who also is honorary chairman of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party, has served as an unofficial interlocutor between Beijing and Taipei in the absence of official ties.

The two sides split after a civil war won by Mao Zedong's Communists in 1949 but relations have dramatically improved in recent years.

Tan declined to give further information. The award was announced on a Chinese Buddhist website.

It said other candidates included South African democracy icon and Nobel peace laureate Nelson Mandela, software tycoon Bill Gates and the Panchen Lama, the second-highest ranking figure in Tibetan Buddhism.

The 20-year-old Panchen Lama -- whose real name is Gyaincain Norbu -- was chosen by Beijing for the post after it rejected a boy selected by the exiled Dalai Lama, whom China vilifies as a separatist seeking Tibetan independence.

That boy has since disappeared into Chinese custody.

Lien's spokesman Ting Yuean-chao said his office had received no word on the prize and would not comment.

Liu, a writer and academic who has boldly fought for human rights and reform of China's one-party political system for more than two decades, was jailed in December 2009 for 11 years on subversion charges.

He was announced as the Nobel winner in October but no one is expected to be on hand to accept the award on his behalf as many of Liu's fellow dissidents and supporters have been warned not to attend or have been physically prevented from leaving China, activists have said.

An AFP photographer on Wednesday saw heavy security at the apartment complex where Liu Xia lives.