Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has refused to receive the Confucius Peace Prize after learning that it is not associated with the Chinese government, according to Zimbabwean local media.

Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba confirmed that the president was “not following up on the award”, reported NewsDay, published by local independent media house AMH.

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Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

“The Chinese government informed the Zimbabwean government it was not associated with the conferring organisation. The matter ended there as far as the government and the President were concerned,” Charamba told the newspaper.

News of Mugabe being awarded “China’s Nobel Peace Prize” has caused controversy around the world due to Mugabe’s bad human rights record. The African leader came into power in Zimbabwe in the 1980s. He has been accused of corruption and political suppression which earned him the name of a “dictator”.

The Confucius Peace Prize was founded in 2010 by a group of scholars in Beijing after Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The scholars had responded directly to a commentary in the Global Times calling for the setting-up of a Confucius Peace Prize to counter Nobel and promote the Chinese value of human rights using the name of the great philosopher.

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Chinese jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Today the prize is handed out annually by a company registered in Hong Kong.

Due to its founding history, many have mistaken the Confucius Peace Prize for a state-sanctioned award reflecting Chinese government policies. But the Chinese foreign ministry has repeatedly said the award has nothing to do with the government. The Chinese cultural ministry in 2011 demanded the issuer of Confucius Peace Prize withdraw claims that it was affiliated with the ministry.

In a column written under a pseudonym, Mugabe’s spokesman Charamba accused the “little” awarding institution of the Confucius Peace Prize of seeking to raise its profile by giving the prize to Mugabe, NewsDay reported.

According to Chinese media reports, this year’s Confucius Peace Prize committee consisted of 76 people, many of whom were professors from Chinese universities. The committee hailed Mugabe’s contribution in “building the Zimbabwean political and economic order” as well as “his huge support in Pan-Africanism and African independence.”

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The press conference to announce the winner of this year’s Confucius Peace Prize was held in Beijing in September. Photo: u.zp.china.com.cn.

Other candidates nominated for this year’s award included United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and American billionaire Bill Gates.

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Vivienne Zeng

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.