China stood up by winner of "Confucius peace prize"

Thu Dec 9, 2010 6:00am EST
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By Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) - It was meant to be China's answer to the Nobel Peace Prize, a timely riposte to the honoring of jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo. But the winner of the first "Confucius Peace Prize" didn't even bother to show up.

Instead, it was left to a scared-looking girl, whom organizers did not properly identify, to collect a stack of bills for the $15,000 cash prize meant for former Taiwan vice-president Lien Chan.

Lien had won the prize for his efforts to improve relations between China and Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own, beating out five other nominees, including past Nobel Peace Prize winners Mahmoud Abbas and Nelson Mandela.

"We believe that Mr. Lien Chan, with his knowledge, dignity, and political wisdom, would not refuse peace, and he would not refuse this prize," Confucius Prize organizer Tan Changliu gamely told a packed news conference in Beijing.

Lien, now honorary chairman of Taiwan's ruling Nationalist or KMT party, has not commented publicly on the prize.

Lai Shin-yuan, chairwoman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, told Taiwan lawmakers that the island's government found the prize "amusing."

"As far as we know it is an unofficial prize. We don't plan to make any comment on it," she said. "But we do find it amusing."

Lien travelled to China in 2005 in his then capacity as chairman of the KMT in the first such trip since the Communists won control of the mainland in 1949 after forcing the KMT to flee into exile in Taiwan.   Continued...

<p>A girl holds the first Confucius Peace Prize trophy after receiving it for the recipient Lien Chan, former Taiwan vice-president, as she is carried by Yang Disheng, a member of the Confucius Peace Prize jury, at the award ceremony in Beijing December 9, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Lee</p>