- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 22, 2015

China has bestowed its version of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Confucius Peace Prize, on Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who has been labeled a violent dictator.

The chairman of the award committee defended the decision to honor Mr. Mugabe, saying he was chosen for “injecting fresh energy” into the global quest for harmony, The Guardian reported.

“Ever since Robert Mugabe was sworn in as the president of Zimbabwe in the 1980s, he has worked hard to bring political and economic order to the country and to improve the welfare of the Zimbabwean people by overcoming hardship,” the prize committee argued in a statement.

Both the U.S. and the EU have imposed sanctions on Mr. Mugabe and members of his family and inner circle over his human rights abuses. He has been accused of using systematic violence and torture to maintain his 35-year grip on power in Zimbabwe and has forced an estimated 700,000 people out of their homes.

The award committee praised Mr. Mugabe’s stewardship of the 54-state African Union after he became chairman earlier this year.

The Beijing-run Global Times newspaper said Mr. Mugabe, 91, had beaten off competition from candidates including the Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, and the South Korean president, Park Geun-hye.

News of the award has sparked outrage among opposition groups in Zimbabwe and human rights activists.

“The rule of Mugabe is paved with blood, violence, arson and cruelty,” Gorden Moyo, the secretary general of the People’s Democratic party, claimed on the Bulawayo 24 news website.

The Confucius award was created in 2010 as a Chinese alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize. It was set up after the Norwegian Nobel committee awarded its peace price to a jailed Chinese dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, sparking outrage in China.

Previous winners of the Confucius prize include Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Cuban President Fidel Castro.

The prize comes with an award of 100,000 yuan ($15,723) and a gold trophy of the ancient Chinese philosopher whose name it takes.

• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

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