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China's Confucius Peace Prize courts yet more controversy

Hun Sen, Duterte among candidates for 'Nobel alternative'

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen are among the candidates for this year's Confucius Peace Prize.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Since its inception in 2010, the Confucius Peace Prize has never been far from controversy. This year, it would appear, will be no different for the supposed Chinese alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize.

Having been awarded to a succession of authoritarian political figures, the award has drawn criticism from outside China, and is apparently not taken particularly seriously by the authorities in Beijing -- or its winners.

Past winners include former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, whose 37 years in power came to an end when he stepped down on Nov. 21.

Among this year's candidates are Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. The winner is expected to be announced in early December.

The Confucius Peace Prize is awarded by a private organization, but political leaders who display a pro-Beijing stance feature prominently in the list of winners.

When Mugabe won the prize in 2015, the organizer cited his "contribution to peace in Africa." His selection, however, drew widespread international criticism.

The New York Times, for example, ran the headlined "Zimbabwean President, Condemned by West, Is Selected for Chinese Peace Prize."

In the end, Mugabe declined to accept the award.

The Confucius Peace Prize was established in 2010 by a group including a Beijing university professor in response to jailed Chinese pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Confucius Peace Prize is currently organized and awarded by the China International Peace Research Center, a private academic organization based in Hong Kong. The selection committee is made up of about 60 individuals.

Other former winners include Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was prime minister at the time of his award, and former Cuban President Fidel Castro.

Many non-Chinese winners either declined to accept the prize or did not show up for the award ceremony.

Even within China, the prize has come in for a certain amount of criticism for supposedly disgracing Confucius' name, and the Chinese authorities have denied any connection with the prize.

The shortlist is usually released in late September, with the winner customarily announced in early December.


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