Strait Talk Hong Kong – For a Peaceful Cross-Strait and Hong Kong Future

Hong Kong-China conflict is not a freshly-brewed concept, neither is the tension across the Strait between Taiwan and China. In fact, the dispute between the three only seems to intensify in recent decades. Strait Talk Hong Kong, an NGO organized by the youth, established under such context.

In the past, many thought the problem would be resolved by time indefinitely. Nonetheless, history repeatedly told us otherwise. For Hong Kong, since the hand-over, unrest and insecurity have never settled. As for Taiwan, the threat of military attack and “take-over” has never ceased as early as the 1950s.

It was under such tension that Strait Talk initiative was established by a Taiwanese-American, Johnny Lin, back in 2005 at Brown University in Providence. In light of the Taiwan Strait crisis then, he sought to create a platform for the young generation separated by the ocean – Taiwan Strait – where they can engage in dialogues in view of resorting to a peaceful resolution.  Since then, there have been 13 annual symposiums held at Brown alone.

Through years of development, Strait Talk has grown to a global network with chapters at different cities and continents like Strait Talk Berkeley at University of California, Berkeley, Strait Talk Hong Kong (STHK) at the University of Hong Kong and Strait Talk Taipei at National Taiwan University.

 

There are four Strait Talk chapters around the world. From left to right: Strait Talk Berkeley, Strait Talk Brown, Strait Talk Hong Kong and Strait Talk Taipei.

 

STHK, the first Strait Talk chapter in Asia, was started by Erika Qing Guan, who was a former HKU student from Beijing. Attended the Berkeley symposium as a mainland Chinese delegate in 2010 and inspired by its practice, she introduced it to Hong Kong and Asia in 2011.

She shared that the vision of having such a forum all the way has not changed but to “create a generation of peace-makers”. Many who have devoted themselves like her to this initiative share such insight and are aspired to the sow the seeds of peace in the young generation.

Each year STHK recruits 15 delegates from Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong to join the symposium in Sprint at HKU. Although the number of participants seems rather small, the design ensures each individual to have in-depth conversations and intense knowledge-exchange with others.

The core of every year’s symposium that remains unchanged throughout the years and in different chapters is the Interactive Conflict Resolution (ICR).  Such methodology was invented by scholar and practitioner John Burton in facilitating constructive dialogues with people in inextricable conflicts. It is neither negotiation nor debate like we often see from films or series, but a process invoking humanity and building trust between the parties in view of developing creative and possible resolutions for the future. And this particular method has born fruits in dealing with the conflicts in the world like Indonesia, Israel and Palestine, just to name a few.

A facilitator is usually closely involved in the whole process. Ryan Chu, the facilitator of the 8th Strait Talk Hong Kong forum, explained that the role of facilitator as an appointing person in contrast to a guide, meaning that the facilitator proposes the possible options instead of directing the people. In other words, facilitators are concerned more about managing the process rather than the outcome.

 

Delegates participating in an activity “walk through history” during ICR (Source: Strait Talk Hong Kong).

 

Erika returned this year as a facilitator as well, she reminded the participants that the essence of conflict can still be traced to each individual, and further encouraged them to take the initiative to ignite the fire of action.

“Although the society is becoming more polarized, and thus the difficulty is reflected on even recruiting delegates for such event, it is through this process one can see how valuable it is to construct a platform of dialogue,” she says.

With the eighth year of STHK just successfully ended in HKU, Visen Liu, the external vice-president of the executive committee shares her excitement of witnessing delegates coming with prejudice and stereotypes but leaving with consensus and rapport. She goes on to say that many think that what Strait Talk is doing to overly-idealized, but she responds “so what? Dreams are made to be realized.”

 

Another highlight was the panels that were addressed by respectful scholars throughout the year and during the symposium.

Professor Harry Harding and Shirley Lin, experts in US-China and cross-Strait relationship participated in one of STHK’s public event. Their comments on the future of the three sparked enthusiastic responses.

Professor Shirley Lin and Professor Harry Harding addressing the audience (Left to right) (Source: Strait Talk Hong Kong)

 

Professor Chen, Tien-Shi at Waseda University in Tokyo also gave a special talk on the topic of “Stateless” in February, which raised the awareness of people with no official nationality in Hong Kong and the world.

 

 

Delegates engaging in discussions in the classical ICR round-table setting at STHK (Source: Strait Talk Hong Kong).

 

The rise of China makes it more aggressive and ambitious in terms of politics, economics, and military, intimidating countries around and Taiwan and Hong Kong alike.

But with these more-than-thousand alumni around the world, as Ryan put it, “we aspire that one day at the negotiation table, we’ll have some Strait Talk people and they’ll be able to use the skills and knowledge from their Strait Talk experiences.”

 

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