The Seventh Interethnic Interfaith Leadership Conference was held in Long Beach, California in April 19th to 21st, 2012. Initiatives for China organized this event, with co-sponsorship of the National Endowment for Democracy and Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. Delegates who are Tibetan, Mongolian, and Uyghur leaders; activists from the Mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau; and members of the Chinese underground House Church movements, have attended the conference to express their concerns, enhance their understanding, share their experience and advice regarding the Human Rights and ethnic issues inside China. The guest speakers of the conference included His Holiness the Dalai Lama and non-violent struggle experts from Burma and Middle East. In his speech, His Holiness the Dalai Lama expressed His support to free Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo and blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng.
The conference enjoys a long tradition of building understanding and cooperation among regional, religious, and ethnic groups of contemporary China. The first Interethnic Conference was held in 2000, inspired by Dr. Yang Jianli and Ms. Barbara Haig, supported and encouraged by His Holiness the Dali Lama, endorsed by Bhuchung Tsering of the International Campaign for Tibet, and Omer Kanat, and Bache of the International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation.
The theme of this year’s conference is “Moving Forward Together.” The participants reviewed the human rights situation and political development since the last conference, and case-studied the democratization process in Middle East and Burma, and analyzed strategies to gain human rights breakthroughs for Mongolians, Tibetans, and Uyghurs; and the participants also examined democratic development in Taiwan and its relations with Mainland China, and the elections in Hong Kong and its interactions with Mainland China.
Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, president of World Uyghur Congress, gave a keynote speech on China’s democratization through the mutual understanding and cooperation. Professor Perry Link from UC Riverside, Prof. Xia Yeliang from Peking University, and writer/historian Li Jianglin, presented lectures on topics of “Ethnic Relations and Democratization,” “Civic Society and Ethnic Relations,” and “The Religious Reform of 1958” respectively. Prof. Chibli Mallat, president of Rights to Nonviolence, and Mr. Min Zin, a Burmese democratic movement activist, shared their experience and lessons learned from their struggles.
A special panel in this year’s conference contains three teenage girls presenting their thoughts and understandings of today’s human rights situation. These teenagers are Miranda Curtis, founder of teensfortibet.org; Chen Qiao, the daughter of the well known prisoner of conscience, Liu Xianbin; Zhang Rui, the daughter of Reverend Zhang Qianjin, a former student leader in the 1989 pre-democracy movement.
Other delegates who gave presentations in the conference include journalists Chang Ping and Bei Feng, vp of Initiatives for China and research fellow at Hudson Institute Han Lianchao, political scientist Zhang Boshu, former Tiananmen student leader Wang Dan, Professor from Taiwan Chung Hua University Tseng Chien-Yuan, Hong Kong human rights activitst Patrick Poon and Michael Mo, director of Chinese Language at Department of Information & International Relations of the Central Tibetan Administration Tsering Lhamo, liaison officer of Tibet in Europe Lobsang Nyima, Chinese Liaison Officer of Office of Tibet in New York Kunga Tashi, Mongolian human rights leaders Temtselt Shobshuud and Enghebatu Togochog.
On the last day of the conference, our delegates met as a group to discuss strategies for moving forward together. In a conclusive act of unity, they agreed on and unanimously passed a formal written Declaration of Unity, which expressed their deep commitment and shared belief in the values of transformative democracy in bringing powerful and effective democratic change to China.