A newly formed Chinese organization says it will award its own peace prize on Thursday, a day before the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Norway to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
The announcement comes just three weeks after a Chinese newspaper proposed the creation of the "Confucius Peace Prize," named for the famed Chinese philosopher. It follows determined efforts to undermine Friday's Nobel ceremony in Oslo by pressuring governments to boycott the event.
In e-mails to news organizations Wednesday, Confucius Prize organizers said the initial award will honor former Taiwan Vice President Lien Chen, who "built a bridge of peace between Taiwan and the mainland." Lien was chairman of Taiwan's Nationalist Party in 2005 when he made a historic trip to China, helping to ease decades of tensions between the two governments.
Other nominees for the Confucius prize included former South African President Nelson Mandela, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Beijing-appointed Panchen Lama, the second highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism.
The awards committee chairman told the Associated Press that the group is not an official government body, but said it worked closely with China's Ministry of Culture.
The e-mailed statement said the award was created as "a peaceful response" to the Nobel decision and to explain the Chinese people's views of peace.
Chinese officials were outraged when the Nobel Prize was awarded to Liu, whom Beijing considers a criminal. Liu is serving an 11-year prison sentence for his advocacy of broad democratic reforms in China. His wife and supporters are prevented from traveling to Oslo to attend the award ceremony on his behalf.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.