Ninth InterEthnic/InterFaith Leadership Conference Held In Taiwan
Reported by Citizen Reporters: Duan Chao, Cao Jie, Li Zhong and Li Xuemei
Organized by Initiatives for China/Citizen Power for China, the Ninth Interethnic / Interfaith Leadership Conference was held in Taiwan from April 24 through April 27.
The four-day conference gave training to nearly 100 people in nonviolent resistance, with attendees including Chinese, Mongolians, Tibetans and Uyghurs residing in various region of the world, including Hong Kong, Mainland China, Macau, Taiwan, Dharamsala of India, Mongolia, Japan, North America, Australia and Europe. The diverse attendees hold beliefs such as Buddhism, Christianity, Falungong, Islam, and other faiths.
Since its inception in 2000, this is the ninth Interethnic / Interfaith Leadership Conference. It aims to promote understanding and cooperation among people of different ethnicities, religions and regions. It also aims to promote tolerance and friendship, to discuss strategies and tactics in promoting human rights and a democratic transition in China. The theme of this conference is “Unite to build a viable opposition: the routes, roles and responsibilities.”
|Taiwan’s Minority Leader (DPP), Mr. Ke Chienming, speaking at the conference|
The conference was hosted in Taiwan again by Initiatives for China/Citizen Power for China, aiming to better understand Taiwan’s democracy, to borrow from Taiwan’s experience in its democratic transition, to exchange and learn from both positive and negative experiences in safe-guarding and fighting for the rights of different ethnic and religious groups, and to plan future actions. Co-hosts included the Taiwan Association for China Human Rights, New Taiwan Peace Foundation, Tibet Religious Foundation of H.H. the Dalai Lama, Taiwan Labor Front, Friends of Uyghurs in Taiwan, Chunghwa Association for Human Rights, and other NGOs in Taiwan. The host and cohosts are grateful to U.S. National Endowment for Democracy and Taiwan Foundation for Democracy for their repeated and strong support.
Mr. Metteo Mecacci, president of International Campaign for Tibet and former member of the Italian Parliament, made remarks at the opening ceremony, and Mr.KE Jian-Ming, Minority Leader of Taiwan Legislative Yuan delivered the keynote speech. Other participants who delivered speeches included Hong Kong Legislator Lawyer Albert Ho, Vice President of Taiwan Foundation for Democracy Yang Huang Mei Chin, Member of Taiwan Legislative Yuan ( DPP ) TIEN Chiu Cjin, Member of Taiwan Legislative Yuan ( DPP ) YU Mei-Nu, Member of Taiwan Legislative Yuan ( KMT ) CHEN Hsueh-Sheng, Chairman of Taiwan Association for China Human Rights YANG Sen-Hong, Candidate for Mayor of Taipei Lawyer KU Li-Hisung, Deputy General Secretary of Taiwan Solidarity Union CHOU Mei-Li, PFP Deputy Secretary General LIU Wen-Hsiung, Members of Tibetan Parliament in Exile Bawa Kalsang Gyaltsen, T.Dhardon Sharling, Vice President of World Uyghur Congress Ilham Muhmat, and Director of Southern Mongolia Human Rights Information Center Enghebatu Togochog, China’s prominent human rights lawyers TENG Biao and XIA Jun. Initiatives for China/Citizen Power for China had the honor to have lectures given by Professor Charlie Clements, Director of Carr center for Human Rights Policies at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and the world-renowned expert on conflicts resolution Professor Raymond Helmick from Boston College, and Mr. Fraser Cameron, former EU official and Director of the EU-Asia Centre. President of New Taiwan Peace Foundation Chien Hsi-chieh gave a one-day training on nonviolence.
Among those who sent their written greeting remarks were Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Vice President of European Parliament Edward McMillan-Scott, U.S. Congressman Chris Smith, Member of the Canadian Parliament Irwin Cotler, Vice Chairperson of US Commission on International Religious Freedom Katrina Lantos Swett. Former ROC President Lee Teng-hui commissioned the conference organizer Dr. Yang Jianli to deliver his greetings to all participants at the opening ceremony, and send his best wishes for the success of the conference as well as the prospects for democratization of China.
In his opening speech “Unite to Build Viable Democratic Forces”, Dr. Yang Jianli, founder of The Interethnic / Interfaith Leadership Conference, made the following remarks.
“From a macro point of view, there exist five factors that determine China’s future political direction. First is the development of democratic forces. Second, the dynamics of the power structuring within the Chinese Communist Party, mainly the publicized struggle between the power-oriented faction and the route-oriented faction. Third, the uprising of Tibetan, Uygur, and Mongolian ethnic minorities, as well as the development of their relationship with the Han people. Fourth, the development of mainland China’s comprehensive interactions with Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. Fifth, the dynamics of China’s relations with the international community.
“All the five factors are intertwined, with one reinforcing another. At least four out of the five are directly related to the communities we represent and the work that we do. This is to say, what we are doing today and how we are doing it will affect China’s political future, and therefore the very future of our communities is at stake. Among these five factors, the most fundamental one is the development of democratic forces, which includes forces within each community and collaboration and union with other communities. Democratic forces that are divided are not sustainable, and thus will not lead to democratization.” (See Appendix 1)
The conference held intensive discussions on twelve topics, which were:
(a): Analyses of overall political, economic, social , cultural, and environmental situations in China
(b): Overall strategies of building dynamic democratic oppositions , and group reports (one to nine) from Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Tibet, Uygur, Mongolia, Christians, Falun Gong and Chinese civil movements
(c): Specific strategies of building dynamic democratic oppositions (re-discussion).
Each of the nine groups reported their individual challenges that they face, and proposed a specific project to the conference requiring attention of other groups. All participants then broke down into groups according to their interests in the projects proposed, and discussed resources, difficulties, strategies, and organizational systems relating to the projects.
Based on these speeches, lectures, seminars and training sessions, and under the auspices of Dr. Han Lianchao, one of the key leaders of Initiatives for China/Citizen Power for China, a Joint Declaration of The Ninth Interethnic / Interfaith Leadership Conference was discussed and passed. (See Appendix 2)
During the Conference, Initiatives for China/Citizen Power for China played an active role facilitating the preparation and establishment of Tibetan and Chinese International PEN.
Left to Right:
Mr. Yang Sen-Hong, president of Taiwan Association for China Human Rights, Dr. Yang Jianli, president of Initiatives for China, President Lee Teng-Hui, Former President of Republic of China
|President Lee Teng-Hui gives lecture to conference delegates|
On April 28, the following day after the closing ceremony of the conference, Initiatives for China/Citizen Power for China organized a group of over 30 human rights and civil movement activists from mainland China and overseas and Tibetan writers and human rights activists to pay a visit to former President of Republic of China, Lee Teng-hui. The representatives were greatly inspired by Mr.Lee’s relentless pursuit of truth and faith, in particular, how he, as President of ROC, relied on the strength of his faith when faced with difficulties during the democratic transition. In the last century, the former President was known by the international community as Mr. Democracy. He emphasized that the democratization of China and the quality of China’s future democracy would depend on the beliefs and ideals of democratic promoters of both ruling parties and opposition parties, as well as the general public. The former President and the representatives had a three-hour, in-depth discussion. He said that it was the first time that he had this kind of discussion with human rights activists from mainland China and Tibet, and he was willing to continue to exchange views on related issues with people of all walks from mainland China.
On April 29, Initiatives for China/Citizen Power for China arranged nearly 20 participants to visit one of the main leaders of Taiwan’s opposition movement , the famous former political prisoner, former Chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party, Mr. Shih Ming-teh. During the two-and-half-hour warm and in-depth discussion, Mr. Shih shared his experiences of half a century in pursuit of democracy. He emphasized that hopelessness is the most harmful thing. He had been optimistic even in the darkest era when he was sentenced to life imprisonment, which led to a broken family. Mr. Shih, in particular, shared stories of his leadership in the “Red-Shirt Army” movement seeking to unseat the then president Chen Shuei-bian. He also commentated on Taiwan’s ” Sunflower” student movement that had just finished, and stressed the importance of citizen power in enhancing the quality of Taiwan’s democracy.
Initiatives for China/Citizen Power for China had hoped to invite Lee Teng-hui and Mr. Shih Ming-teh to the conference to have a panel discussion on Taiwan ‘s democratization, and what was happening within both the ruling and opposition parties, and the on-going second democratic reform in Taiwan. Due to the conflict of their schedules, that did not materialize. However, the two post-conference visits to the two Mr. Democracy made up for the regret in some way.
“It has proved extremely important for these younger generation leaders to get together on a regular basis,” said Dr. Yang Jianli, president of Initiatives for China/Citizen Power for China and founder of interethnic/Interfaith Leadership Conference. “The groups they represent, be it ethnic, religious or regional, all favor democracy and freedom and are so directly involved with China that they have a high stake in the future of China. The conference is so designed that each assembly has one third repeat participants and two thirds new faces, as such, our network of young leaders keep expanding, seeds sown in China and the rest of the world.”
Dr. Yang added:” Between assemblies of the Conference, we work very hard to bring all groups together to carry out the joint projects we discuss and plan at the assemblies, through working together, we are forming a viable democratic force. Next year, we will have our 10th assembly and hope we will have a big breakthrough between now and next time we all get together.”