(BEIJING) – China awarded the Confucius Peace Prize Thursday, its version of the Nobel Peace Prize, after a long campaign to vilify this year's Nobel Peace laureate, Chinese pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo.
To the dismay of human rights activists around the world, Beijing has conducted a sweeping crackdown on dissent and demanded that other governments boycott Friday's Nobel ceremony in Oslo.
"The Chinese government is not happy that Liu Xiaobo is receiving this award, and that was to be expected," Minky Worden, the director of Global Initiatives at Human Rights Watch, said. "But the overreaction that we've seen from Beijing is not worthy of a government that projects [itself] abroad as a strong, confident, growing and responsible power."
Liu, 54, whose long career of activism stretches back to the 1989 Tiananmen Square movement, was sentenced last year after he co-authored a manifesto calling for human rights and political reform titled "Charter 08."
Rights group Amnesty International estimates more than 250 people have either been stopped from going abroad, detained, or put under house arrest ahead of Friday's ceremony, as part of a clampdown in China that has blocked Western media. BBC and CNN's websites were both down in China on Thursday, while BBC is completely blocked on television. Though CNN's broadcast is still up, all reports about Liu and the Nobel Prize are blocked.
Meanwhile, China presented the inaugural Confucius Peace Prize at a ceremony Thursday, honoring a man who was not aware he was receiving the award. The office of former vice president of Taiwan, Lien Chan, said he had not heard of the Confucius award, and he was not present at the ceremony to collect it. Instead, a young girl, of no relation to the recipient, accepted the award of $15,000.
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