REPORTING FROM BEIJING -- China’s Ministry of Culture abruptly pulled the plug on this year’s Confucius Peace Prize, which was launched last year after imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.
The Confucius prize, which carried a $15,000 award, had been touted as an opportunity to present China's "viewpoint of peace."
A brief statement posted to the ministry’s website Thursday said the organizer of the prize, the China Native Art Assn. Traditional Culture Protection Bureau, had “severely violated” ministry regulations by using an unauthorized title and holding a news conference without prior approval. The statement ordered the association to disband.
Chinese blogger and activist Wen Yunchao said the real reason was probably that authorities were embarrassed by the negative reaction to the award.
“This prize has always been a joke,” he said. “One hundred percent of comments on the Web having to do with the Confucius Prize are negative.”
Two weeks ago, the organization had announced eight nominees for this year’s prize: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; South African President Jacob Zuma; Gyaltsen Norbu, who was designated by China as Tibetan Buddhism's Panchen Lama; Taiwanese politician James Soong; former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan; Chinese agricultural scientist Yuan Longping; and Microsoft's Bill Gates.
The first and only prize was awarded last year to Taiwanese politician Lien Chan, who did not attend the ceremony and said he had in fact never heard of it. In his place, a 6-year-old girl attended.
-- Jon Kaiman
Photo: A picture of Liu Xiaobo, serving an 11-year jail sentence in China, hangs in the Nobel Peace Center on Dec. 10, 2010. Credit: Daniel Sannum-Lauten / AFP/Getty Images