President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe reportedly has no plans of accepting the Confucius Peace Prize that was awarded to him in Beijing last month, without him actually being present for the awards ceremony.
According to Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, Mugabe was “not following up on the reward.”
Charamba explained that after the Chinese government had explained that they were not associated with the conferring organization, “the matter ended there as far as the government and the president were concerned.”
The Confucius Peace Prize was founded in 2010 by a group of scholars in Beijing as a response to the decision to award Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize. The founders were moved to act in response to commentary in the Global Times calling for the establishment of a parallel organization named in honor of Confucius and awarded to those who promote “the Chinese value of human rights.”
The prize is handed out annually and this year was accompanied with a monetary reward of 500,000 RMB ($80,000). The organization behind the prize is registered in Hong Kong. Previous laureates Lien Chan (2010), Vladimir Putin (2011), Kofi Annan (2012) and Fidel Castro (2014) all opted not to be present at the ceremony as well.
China’s Foreign Ministry has repeatedly stressed that the award has absolutely nothing to do with the Chinese government, and in 2011 the Culture Ministry demanded that the issuer withdraw claims that it was affiliated with the government.
In a column appearing in Zimbabwe’s state-backed the Herald, Nathaniel Manheru decries the prize as insulting and refutes criticism from opposition party members. In a tone of voice that can only be described as dismissive, Manheru wrote, “The wires are awash with reports that some Chinese outlet – Confucius something – decided to award him a peace prize.”
He went on to also decry the conferring organization, writing “Just what is the story? Even some little institution, so far away from us, seeking to raise its own profile by forcing an association with Robert Mugabe, creates a threatening factor for the opposition!”
The column’s author is widely thought to be Charamba writing under a pen name.
Many opposition politicians and critics around the globe have criticized the decision, citing Mugabe’s spotty human rights record.
The organization behind the Confucius Peace Prize cited Mugabe’s contribution to “building the Zimbabwean political and economic order” and his promotion of Pan-Africanism and African independence as major reasons behind the decision to confer upon him this year’s Confucius Peace Prize.
Mugabe beat out a host of other nominees for this year’s award including the Chinese Taoist Association, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, former Japanese prime minister Yasuo Fukuda, Kazakhstan strongman Nursultan Nazarbayev, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, prominent Asian-American politician of the Republican Party Anna Chen Chennault, former Japanese prime minister Tomiichi Murayama, South Korean president Park Geun-hye and Venerable Master Hsing Yun of the Foguangshan Buddhist movement in Taiwan.
However, he did not make it to the awards ceremony. On the very same day that the Confucius Peace Prize was being awarded, Mugabe was instead at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to remind other world leaders that “we are not gays”. Mugabe has previously described homosexuals as worse than “pigs, goats and birds”.
By Stanley Yu