We interrupt our regular programming to bring you this bulletin --
China is attempting to upstage the Nobel Prize ceremony on Friday by giving out its own award tomorrow (Thursday).
Only three weeks after the idea was floated by Huanqiu (The Global Times), a mainland Chinese media outlet, Beijing is going to give out its first "Confucius Peace Prize".
Named after the philosopher, the new prize is to "interpret the viewpoints of peace of [the] Chinese [people]," the awards committee said in a statement released Tuesday.
And like the Nobel Committee, this other award committee made up of five judges is not an official government body, but it does work closely with the Ministry of Culture. Hardly sounds independent. The committee chairman Tan Changliu declined to give specifics about the committee, when it was created and how the five judges were chosen, saying this information would be disclosed later. It will probably be a miracle if they even release this information at all.
Nevertheless, the first recipient of the award will be Lien Chan, Taiwan's former vice president and honorary chairman of the Nationalist Party for having "built a bridge of peace between the mainland and Taiwan." And the response from Lien's office? One of his staffers said she couldn't comment because she knew nothing about the prize.
Apparently Lien was chosen among eight nominees, including billionaire Bill Gates, former South African President Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and the Panchen Lama -- the Beijing appointed one, not the one the Dalai Lama had picked. We still don't know where he is being held, even though the Chinese government says he doesn't wish to see anyone.
"We should not compete, we should not confront the Nobel Prize, but we should try to set up another standard," said Liu Zhiqin, the Beijing businessman who suggested the prize in Huangqiu. "The Nobel Prize is not a holy thing that we cannot doubt or question. Everyone has a right to dispute whether it's right or wrong." Liu clarified that he was not involved in establishing the award.
Lien will be awarded the prize and 150,000RMB ($15,000). "It needs to grow gradually, and we hope people will believe the award is of global significance," said Tan.
Does Lien know about this prize? Will he actually come to Beijing to accept it?
This hasty and ridiculous attempt at trying to upstage the Nobel Prize ceremony just shows the lack of foresight and insecurity on the part of the Chinese government. It keeps mistakenly putting Liu Xiaobo into the spotlight when it really wants the Nobel Peace Prize winner's name wiped out.
Meanwhile it was heartening to read that many Hong Kong people came out on Sunday to demand that China free Liu and his wife to allow them to go to Oslo to receive the award.
It is also wonderful to hear the ceremony on Friday will include an empty chair for Liu, a stark reminder of what China has done to this year's Peace Prize winner.