Distinguished guests and friends:
Welcome to you all.
The Twelfth InterEthnic/InterFaith Leadership Conference has finally begun. In the course of preparing for this year’s Conference, we suffered the heavy blow of the tragic passing of Liu Xiaobo, and our work came to a temporary standstill. The emergence of a new dictator at the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, the political left-turn of the Xi Jinping regime, its brutal suppression of freedom of speech, and its tightening control over civil society, have caused this year’s Conference to face greater pressure than ever before.
Indeed, democracy is facing setbacks. This is not just a description of the suppressed democracy movement in powerful dictatorships like China, but also a description of the appeasing position and attitude of the world’s democracies toward authoritarian regimes like the CCP.
Precisely because of this fact, the convening of this year’s Conference is more important than ever, and poses additional challenges for us.
This is because the CCP regime-with its strong economic resources and military power, implausible political conservativeness, and determination to maintain its “Red Empire”-is implementing, both domestically and abroad, an overall strategy of divide-and-conquer, intimidation and coercion; whereas, relatively speaking, our forces for freedom are scattered.
The forces for freedom that I’m referring to, include, first of all, those of us who are directly promoting China’s democratization, including those who are fighting for freedom for all the ethnic groups, regions and religions that are directly related to China and represented by the participants of the InterEthnic/InterFaith Leadership Conference. Faced with the powerful state apparatus of the CCP, we have no choice. Today, we must further eliminate the barriers between us through greater tolerance and understanding. We must accrue wisdom and enhance our capabilities with greater insight and determination. We must embark on an earnest path of helping each other, supporting each other, and working together in unity.
The forces for freedom to which I’m referring also include the world’s democracies, especially democratic countries in Asia.
It is often said that the 21st century is the century of Asia. In fact, the 21st century is a century for everyone-whether it’s good or bad will ultimately depend on each of us. The situation in Asia isn’t as favorable as some prognosticators describe it. Perhaps just the opposite is true: In Asia, a tipping point of crises is nearing, which may engender global problems: North Korea’s nuclear weapons program; disputes in the East China Sea, South China Sea, and Taiwan Strait; India-Pakistan tensions; the environment, population, and refugees; unpredictable political changes in China; and so on. Meanwhile, Asia lacks a multinational coalition to collectively respond to these crises, especially a coalition of democracies. We should see that the source of the most acute crisis that Asia is facing-or the difficulty of eliminating these crises-is the political tyranny in certain countries. Therefore, Asian democracies should form an alliance to fight against threats from authoritarian regimes. Japan, as Asia’s most powerful democracy, should play a leadership role in the formation of such an alliance. Objectively, the formation of a regional alliance with democratic nations at its core will play a catalytic role in the democratization in China. Otherwise, an integrated Asia dominated by the CCP regime would be based on a completely different value system. Once formed, it would become a nightmare for Asian democratic countries and a further setback for the entire free world. It is no exaggeration to say that now is the critical moment that determines whether Asia is defined and triumphed by democracy or by tyranny.
Because China’s growing economic strength has been used by the CCP regime to enhance, firstly, its military power, Japan faces the following reality: China is replacing Japan to become the most powerful nation in Asia, and the political philosophy of China‘s leaders is extremely regressive; whether domestically or abroad, it disregards any rules that are unfavorable to it. China has already become a real threat to peace in Asia. However, with China’s massive size, simple military confrontation is unthinkable. Only by helping China to achieve modernization in the complete sense-i.e., political democratization-can Asia achieve real peace.
In preparing for this Conference, I actively contacted and engaged in exchange with Japan’s various political parties, groups and factions. A friend of mine kindly warned me that Japan’s leftist, centrist and rightist parties each has its own position on China; and that it would be wishful thinking to expect to be able to balance the parties. Admittedly, I have experienced these difficulties firsthand. However, I’m satisfied with the achievements that we have made to date. I will not give up on further efforts. While speaking at Meiji University this April, I proposed three points of China-related consensus that should be shared by each of Japan’s ruling and opposition parties. Here, I want to reiterate these three points:
1. An expansive, undemocratic and uncivilized neighboring regime is unfavorable to Japan’s security and democratic lifestyle.
2. Japan’s historical feelings of guilt are toward the Chinese people, and should not be toward the CCP. Japan has never let down the Chinese Communist Party. Supporting democratization and the improvement of human rights conditions in China will eventually help to resolve the Chinese people’s hatred towards Japan.
3. Japan is Asia’s most powerful democracy, and should have more self-confidence and a greater sense of moral responsibility to help democratize China.
I hope the three aforementioned points will get more people thinking.
Distinguished guests and friends, the theme of this year’s Conference is “Advancing Human Rights, Democracy and Peace: New Tools, New Strategies, New Generation”. In the 21st century, China, Japan and Asia in its entirety need to promote the broad acceptance of human rights and democratic values in Asia and establish a permanent peace mechanism. This should be an integral part of the InterEthnic/InterFaith Leadership Conference. I hope this year’s Conference can contribute, both in attitudes and actions, to overcoming setbacks to the advance of global democracy.