A Chinese alternative "peace prize" that was awarded in bizarre fashion last year in an apparent attempt to counter the Nobel Peace Prize that went to a jailed dissident has been abruptly canceled.

An announcement by the Beijing-based Association of Chinese Local Art said the association's cultural protection department, which set up the 'Confucius Peace Prize' last year, had been disbanded and what would have been the second prize was canceled. It gave no reason.

The statement was posted to the website of the Culture Ministry, which oversees the association but is not directly involved with its activities.

An official with the Ministry of Culture's press office who like many Chinese bureaucrats would give only his surname, Zhou, confirmed Thursday that the prize had been called off. Zhou said the ministry had nothing to do with establishing the prize or its cancellation.

"This was totally their own choice," he said. "It had nothing to do with the Ministry of Culture."

Phone numbers for the association and the prize jury rang unanswered Thursday.

The inaugural Confucius prize ceremony was held last year _ the day before the Nobel ceremony honoring Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year prison sentence for co-authoring an appeal for political reform.

Beijing has called Liu's Nobel a Western plot against China.

The first Confucius prize was awarded to former Taiwanese vice president Lien Chan, though Lien, unaware of the proceedings, did not show up to claim it. Instead the prize was given to a small girl who organizers declined to identify.

The prize was named after the philosopher and was intended to give the Chinese "viewpoint of peace," organizers said last year. It came with a $15,000 (100,000 yuan) gift.