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Human rights take centre stage


Brigid Veale
13 June 2008
The issue of human rights in Tibet will take centre stage at a conference in Byron Bay next month with speaker, Professor of Law Michael Davis, pushing for China to look beyond the question of national unity to consider basic human rights.

Professor Davis, who has held a number of human rights academic appointments and has written widely on international law, constitutionalism, security and human rights, will join key speakers from across the globe at the Activating Human Rights and Peace Conference to be held in Byron Bay from July 1 to 4.

The conference is being hosted by Southern Cross University’s Centre for Peace and Social Justice. The opening address will be given by the Honourable Justice Michael Kirby.

“Only by acknowledging that the human rights issue cannot be separated from the country’s unity, and negotiating with the Dalai Lama, will Beijing achieve the goal that it and the Dalai Lama share: an autonomous Tibet that remains part of China while retaining its own Tibetan autonomy,” Professor Davis, from the Chinese University in Hong Kong, said.

He advocates that China adopt the Dalai Lama as a partner in the solution.

“The Dalai Lama is a rare negotiating partner capable of winning over skeptics in the Tibetan community. China should take advantage of this opportunity,” he said.

In hosting the Olympics, China had made great strides to demonstrate it has
arrived as a major world leader and responsible power.

“As it has moved forward in the past couple of decades it has made many transformative decisions about its national policies,” Professor Davis said.

“At the same time it has shown no such flexibility concerning its Tibet policies, persisting in the same claims and offering no proposals concerning constructive change through numerous meetings with the representatives of the Dalai Lama. Given the apparent failures of its current policies it may be time to reconsider that approach,” Professor Davis said.

The international conference will include among the many speakers and workshops two remarkable young people from the Middle East, Mutassim Abu El Hawa, who is Muslim, and Ilana Meallem, who is Jewish. Both work for The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, which is a regional centre for environmental leadership. These two inspiring young peace activists and environmentalists will speak together on ‘Shared Concerns in a Region of Conflict - Environmental Cooperation as a Tool for Building Peace’.

Also joining the impressive line-up at the conference is Professor Adrien Wing from Iowa University who will speak on Global Critical Race Feminism; Dr Aruna Gopinath from HELP University College, Kuala Lumpur ‘Democracy and Human Rights in South East Asia’; and Indonesia’s Dr Dede Oetomo, who helped found Indonesia’s first homosexual organisation.