Organizers of the Confucius Peace Prize announced the nominees Sunday for the accolade that last year went to Russia's Vladimir Putin for enhancing his country's status and crushing anti-government forces in Chechnya.
The China International Peace Research Center launched the prize in 2010 in an apparent attempt to counter that year's Nobel Peace Prize which went to jailed Chinese dissident writer Liu Xiaobo. He is serving an 11-year prison sentence for co-authoring an appeal for political reform.
Liu's win enraged the government and Chinese nationalists, who accused the Nobel committee of interfering in China's legal system as part of a plot to bring the nation down in disgrace.
The nominees for the 2012 prize are former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, his successor Ban Ki-moon, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Bill Gates of Seattle, Chinese social activist Wang Dingguo, Peking University Prof. Tang Yijie, Chinese rice researcher Yuan Longping, and the 11th Panchen Lama. The Panchen Lama is the second-highest Tibetan religious leader after the Dalai Lama, but most Tibetans do not accept him because he was appointed by Beijing.
The award's sponsors are professors and academics who say they are independent of the Chinese government.
The 2010 prize went to former Taiwanese Vice President Lien Chan for having "built a bridge of peace between the mainland and Taiwan."