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Advancing a peaceful transition to democracy in China through truth, understanding, citizen power, & cooperative action

12th InterEthnic/InterFaith Leadership Conference – Day 2 Report 3: Panel Discussion II: “Democracy and Peace in East Asia”

Panel Discussion II: “Democracy and Peace in East Asia”   
Chair:      Professor Homare Endo, Professor of History at University of Tsukuba
Speakers:  Mr. Yoichi Kato, Senior Fellow, API Initiative
     Madam Ambassador YANG Maysing, VP of the Taiwan Foundation for
     Democracy, Ambassador-at-Large
     Dr. FEI Liangyong, Chairman of Forum for a Democratic China
     Ms. Eun Kyoung KWON, Director of Open North Korea
     Mr. Shin Harimoto, Reporter, China Commentator, Falun Gong Practitioner
In his remarks, Mr. Yoichi Kato (Senior Fellow API Initiative) addressed the current tense strategic environment of U.S.-China relations. He focused on three issues that are particularly critical at the moment: 1) North Korea, 2) China’s Belt and Road strategy, and 3) the reemergence of cross-strait tensions.

Mr. Kato said that the North Korea situation is very tense.  There is no clear exit strategy for North Korea, nor is there really any way to force North Korea to enter into dialogue. Pressure only, from the US and Japan, is not enough.  He went on to discuss China’s OBOR strategy of using economic aid to expand its influence and establish military outposts and commercial facilities throughout the region covered by OBOR — in what has become known as the “string of pearls” strategy. Mr. Yoichi said that although China denies it, Japan and other countries see it as a big push to expand military as well as economic influence. Mr. Yoichi thought the renewed initiative among Australia, Japan, the US and India, for “a free and open Indo-Pacific,” which Prime Minister Abe said must be based on universal values, was an important development as a counterforce to China’s OBOR. Finally, on Taiwan, Mr. Yoichi said that it is important that Taiwan’s military capability, particularly maritime, be integrated, and he also noted that there is a rise in the level of interest in cross-strait tensions in Washington, drawing particular attention to a recent book on Taiwan published by Project 2049, and the nomination of Randall Schriver, a noted Taiwan expert, for the position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia Pacific Security Affairs.

The other speakers on the panel echoed concerns about China’s expansive influence that were raised by Mr. Bannon, as well as Mr. Yoichi. For example, Ambassador Yang is eager for Japan to stand up for human rights and democracy in Asia. She would like to see Japan, as well as Australia and New Zealand establish foundations similar to The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in the U.S. and Taiwan’s Foundation for Democracy. Ambassador Yang further said that Chinese human rights defenders need to persist and have courage, noting the example of the DPP, which rose up against the big authoritarian force of the KMT and was eventually victorious. She said that the struggle in Taiwan was not over, that people still must work hard to ensure Taiwan’s rightful place on the international stage and in multilateral organizations and events. She urged that we all need to work together to push for democracy and human rights in China.
Dr. Fei Liangyong spoke on the topic of widespread corruption among China’s elite, capital flight, and the hiding of assets abroad. Xi Jinping has clearly used the anti-corruption campaign to crush his political opponents, Dr. Fei said. With respect to Xi Jinping, Dr. Fei said, we all need to be clear that we are opposed to a dictatorship and the cult of personality. Like Ambassador Yang, he urged Japan to support China’s democratization, describing it as Japan’s “historic responsibility.” His view is that China’s democratization is the key for peace in Asia.
Ms. Eun Kywong Kwon addressed the importance of UN mechanisms in response to North Korea’s human rights violations. She discussed the important and hard-hitting Commission on Inquiry (COI) report, which was released in February 2014.  Ms. Kwon stated that the report alleged crimes against humanity and recommended that Kim Jung Un and others be referred to the International Criminal Court. In the wake of the COI report, Ms. Kwon reported that there has been some limited progress, such as the closure of some of the famous political prison camps, and the ratification of the Convention on the Rights with Persons of Disabilities, which was one of the recommendations from North Korea’s first UPR in 2009.  Ms. Kwon described how close informal relations between China and North Korea were at the border; black market trade, Chinese cell phones, Chinese currency are all in use on the border.  Since the state economy has collapsed, North Korea is quietly following China’s way of development through reform and opening up in certain areas along the border. But North Korea has been able to do what it’s done because of its near total information control, and draconian punishments for violators.
Mr. Shin Harimoto, a reporter and Falun Gong practitioner, is originally from China, but has lived in Japan for the past 20 years.  He stressed that the fact Japan and Taiwan are both mature democracies where human rights are protected is so important; they can serve as a model. Taiwan, in particular, a model of electoral democracy, is a great example for China.
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