The Sino-Japan Youth Conference inspired young people from HK, China and Japan to promote peace and form lasting bonds

The Sino-Japan Youth Conference inspired young people from HK, China and Japan to promote peace and form lasting bonds

The Sino-Japan Youth Conference has been fostering relations between students across Asia for nine years. This year's participants tell YP cadet Erica Lee what they've taken away from the experience

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Students took to the street to promote their message of peace.
Photo: Sino-Japan Youth Conference

China and Japan have a famously long and chequered history. In 2005, disputes escalated between the two countries over islands in the East China Sea - the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Anti-Japanese protests spread through major cities on the mainland but, in the midst of the turmoil, students in both countries decided they wanted to find a way to promote peace.

One of those students was 28-year-old Chishio Furukawa, founder of the Sino-Japan Youth Conference (SJYC), a programme which promotes intercultural relations.

He told Young Post that he was inspired to set up the programme after reading about the anti-Japanese protests on the mainland. Furukawa, who had attended Li Po Chun United World College here in Hong Kong, witnessed a friend organise a conference, and it struck him that he could do the same.

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"When I saw that it was actually [doable] - organising conferences among students - I talked to my friend," he said. "Rather than engaging in indirect communication as we had done in the past, I wanted students to interact directly. Face-to-face communication is very important for understanding the context of complicated politics and history."

Furukawa held the first conference in 2009, where it has been held every year since. This year once again, 50 teens (20 from Japan, 19 from the mainland, and 11 from Hong Kong) joined the one-week residential conference in Li Po Chun United World College in Ma On Shan on July 20-26. There, they were able to share their views on Sino-Japanese issues.

This year's conference kicked off with cultural activities such as lion dancing and trying on traditional costumes, events that were followed by case studies, discussions, and presentations designed to encourage communication and critical thinking.

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One of the conference highlights was the Peace Initiative, in which participants were divided into groups and sent out on to the streets of Hong Kong. They were assigned a range of challenges meant to promote their message of peace, including collecting signatures and handing out free hugs.

Chisato said the conference has helped her grow as a person.
Photo: Sino-Japan Youth Conference

Jiang Lai, 17, a participant from Sichuan, China, said he had signed up for the conference to find out how Japanese people his age feel about certain issues.

"Even though we are across the sea from one another, we are pretty similar," he said. "We are loyal to our own countries, but we also hope for the best [globally], for a better future and for peace. Nobody wants disputes, distrust, or misunderstandings."

As well as engaging in cultural and ideological exchanges, participants were also able to sharpen their leadership and organisational skills.

Chisato Yamashita, 19, took part in the programme in 2017. This year, she served as the regional coordinator for Japan. She said the programme has helped her grow as a person.

"Last year, I spent more time with the participants because my role was to provide support and help them to overcome cultural and language barriers. This year, as regional coordinator, I had to step back, which was hard for me [to do]. But I have learned from it - I have learned to be responsible for the whole team and to act as a leader [should]."

"The conference only lasts for six days," Chisato added, when asked about the people she has met, "but our friendships will definitely last longer."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Big changes can start with small conversations

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