On Vladimir Putin and the Confucius Peace Prize

For all the goofy winners the Nobel Peace Prize has picked, it’s hard to beat Putin as a ‘peace prize’ winner. Tons of reactions to this coming from all over the place today- first, the opening of the NYT article gives a pretty good overview of the absurdity of this prize:

The Chinese committee that awarded this year’s Confucius Peace Prize minced no words in honoring the winner, Vladimir V. Putin, prime minister of Russia.

It praised his decision to go to war in Chechnya in 1999.

Ahahaha, I mean, come on… Have some subtlety, will you? When they elaborated, it came out sounding even worse:

Mr. Putin, who had engaged in wars in Chechnya and Georgia, had won the prize, which has been steeped in political intrigue in recent months.

“Those wars were righteous wars,” Qiao Damo, the self-described co-founder and president of the Confucius Peace Prize committee, said in a telephone interview. “Mr. Putin fought for the unification of his country.”

In fact, the campaign in Chechnya led to a stream of human rights abuses by Russian and pro-Russian Chechen security forces, including rape, torture and murder, numerous human rights organizations found at the time.

Okay, so he’s a model peaceful leader, other than all the wars… which were totally righteous, which is why he’s earned the title ‘the butcher of Chechnya,’ right? Anyway, Shanghaiist gets into who exactly is behind the award:

You may remember that the Ministry of Culture disbanded the original organisers of the award and anointed a group of professors from Tsinghua University, Peking University and Beijing Normal University to put together the “new“ award. It appears now that the awarding of the prize to Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin is the handiwork of the old guard and has absolutely nothing to do with the new group blessed by the ministry!

After they were ordered to be shut down, members of the China Native Art Association’s Traditional Culture Protection Bureau took a flight down to Hong Kong and set up a new organisation called China International Peace Research Centre.

The head of this new so-called “research centre” is a poet by the name of Qiao Damo who apparently was shameless enough to nominate himself for last year’s inaugural awards. Qiao now says that their award ceremony is set to take place Dec. 9 at Beijing’s Dongdan News Building — whatever the ministry might say.

Truly a distinguished body. WSJ reports that news portals in China are actually trying to play down this story- I’d speculate that they’re afraid of people then searching more about peace prizes in general and maybe stumbling onto more news about who won last year:

The operators of two of China’s biggest news portals appear to have had second thoughts about trumpeting Mr. Putin’s latest accomplishment: winning the Confucius Peace Prize, China’s homegrown alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize.

Both the Sina and NetEase news portals – two of the most popular news-aggregating websites in China – initially published the news, picking up a report from the website of the state-run Hubei Daily newspaper. By Tuesday morning, however, both sides had taken the article down.

Searches of the Sina and NetEase news sites turned up no mention of Mr. Putin’s victory Tuesday afternoon, though a version of the story was still available on Sina’s Hong Kong news page.

Sina is not overtly censoring discussion of Mr. Putin’s conquest on its popular microblogging service, Weibo, where the response from users appeared mostly to bounce back and forth from befuddled to bemused.

“Wasn’t this prize aborted?” asked Weibo user Guojia Baoan, while another user, Qingqing Di’er, chastised the organizers for bringing shame on Mr. Putin. “Amusing yourself is one thing, but dragging Putin in to lose face along with you is something else.”

“Why are you interfering in Russia’s internal affairs?” user Gongmin Mamou asked in a joking reference to China’s long-standing official foreign policy of noninterference.

Whether Mr. Putin will have the time or inclination to travel to Beijing to pick up the award remains to be seen. The winner of the inaugural Confucius Peace Prize, Mr. Lien, failed to show at the ceremony despite the 100,000-yuan ($15,700) cash honorarium offered along with the prize.

Great job!

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