Dear friends and colleagues from around the world:
Welcome to the 14th InterEthnic/InterFaith Leadership Conference. It is an honor to host this meeting, and we deeply value and appreciate your participation.
In all the years that we have organized the Leadership Conference, never have our challenges been more pressing, never have the moral and political choices forced upon the world by the inhuman and anti-democratic policies of the Chinese Communist Party been so stark, and so consequential.
The theme of this year’s Leadership Conference is “Arm Yourself to Lead Change.” Let me explain.
Many people around the world resist this truth, but the free world faces a new cold war with China under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party. The regime in Beijing is trying to disguise its cold war with free societies. It is an ideological war with the ideal of freedom itself, with the very idea of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, the ideas the regime fears more than any economic and military force.
In fact, this cold war is nothing new. It has been waged unilaterally by the CCP for the entire 40-year period of engagement and appeasement.
In fact, the anti-democratic policies of the CCP that began under Mao during the original Cold War period have never abated. Instead, they have been disguised or modulated for pragmatic tactical reasons from time to time.
The West’s good-intentioned effort to help liberalize China by drawing China into the rules-based international order have not liberalized the regime, but allowed it to corrupt international institutions, to bring many small nations under its thumb, and even to infect great democracies like the United States of America with illiberal ideas-to bully Americans into disavowing their most cherished ideals like freedom of speech.
But under Xi Jinping, the mask is off and the face of communist rule in China and toward Hong Kongers, Uyghurs, Tibetans, Taiwanese, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, and indeed all the diverse people that are directly related to China is being more clearly revealed for what it is: totalitarianism, ethno-nationalism, and fascism.
History has clearly shown that such regimes are threats not only to their own people, but to people of other nations as well. The will and capacity to repress internally is positively related to the ambition and ability to expand externally. With no respect for the independence and sovereignty of others, the CCP turns its anti-human wrath against its neighbors and other countries and openly threatens world peace. Evidence shows that the Chinese communist regime has become the biggest external threat to the free world.
What can be done? What can we, as individuals, do in this decisive moment in history? How can we work together, and combine our ideas and energies to build a movement for freedom and justice that is greater than the sum of its parts?
The ethnic, religious and regional groups represented at this Conference are on the frontlines of the new cold war and live at the place where the reality of the Chinese communist regime shows itself. The participants include young leaders from these groups. I speak directly to you: You need and deserve moral and physical support from the US and other democracies. We want to help develop new international strategies and skills to help achieve it, and to strengthen and sustain your leadership. This is exactly what this conference aims to achieve.
And we will not stop when this meeting is over. We will stay with you, because we are together. Arm Yourselves to Defeat Fascism with Chinese characteristics. Arm Yourselves to Lead Change. We do not mean guns or other weapons. We mean ideas, principles, methods, solidarity and courage.
May the spirit of the people of Hong Kong we just honored with our 2019 Citizen Power Awards inspire us to win the new cold war, to move forward toward the goal of peaceful change to democracy and respect for human rights in China.