Conference explores how Hakka perspectives contribute to global change

Earlier this month, York University virtually hosted the sixth Toronto Hakka Conference. Co-organized by the Hakka community in Toronto and the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR), the “One Heart, One World: Healing the Planet Earth” conference brought together a variety of speakers committed to global learning.

A key purpose was to discuss ways in which Hakka perspectives and experiences can contribute to addressing challenges the world is facing today: environmental degradation, racism, social inequality and uneven development. Driving all of conference presentations and panels was the shared understanding that both universities and communities have a collective responsibility to train students, and the young generation more generally, on what it means to live in the challenging world today.

“We were very pleased to get involved and support this community initiative where education is valued and prioritized. We have also learned from the Toronto Hakka Community how a conference can be a venue for knowledge mobilization as well as for keeping a community together,” said Abidin Kusno, YCAR Director and EUC professor.

Opened by President Rhonda Lenton, the Honourable Dr. Vivienne Poy, Joe Li (Regional Councillor, City of Markham) as well as Dr. Keith Lowe (co-founder of Toronto Hakka Conference), the conference received congratulatory remarks from Dean Alice Hovorka (Faculty Environmental and Urban Change), Associate Dean Lily Cho (Liberal Arts & Professional Studies), and Dean Rui Wang (Faculty of Science). Three York faculty members—Professors Abidin Kusno (EUC), Janet Landa (Economics), and Cary Wu (Sociology)—were also involved in the conference as presenters or responders.

Sponsored by LA&PS, VPRI and YCAR as well as Hakka institutions and community organizations in Toronto, New York and other cities in the US and the world, the conference lineup included community leaders, educators, entrepreneurs, inventors, professors, scientists, scholars and a high school student.

The well attended two-day conference was organized around Hakka approaches to five major topics: “the future of science”; “Eco-forms, settlement and sustainable development”; “Technology, business network and social media”; “Genealogy and the future of family”; and “Global education.”

Proceedings included three keynote speakers: Joseph Tsang Mang Kin, author, poet and former Minister of the Republic of Mauritius who offered a perspective of why Hakka folk worldwide should take the lead in dealing with current societal challenges, while Dr. Herbert Ho Ping Kong (Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto) as G. Raymond Chang Distinguished Speaker, discussed the role of medicine/healing in these times of change, and Dr. Siu Leung Lee, President of the Zheng He Society of the Americas, revealed the significant contributions of Chinese navigation in the fifteenth century for the modern mapping of the world, and what this means to our perspective of the world.

The conference organizers also paid tribute to Young Kwok “Corky” Lee, activist, community organizer, photographer, journalist, and Teng Teng Chin Kleiner, a broadcaster and advocate of sustainable housing, both who passed way recently.

It concluded with a discussion on how the Hakka (being the most diasporic of Chinese communities) and their cross-cultural experiences can serve educators as a framework for thinking about global education, and how this might in turn contribute to the reorganization of knowledge at the level of the university.

For info on York University’s support for Hakka research initiatives, visit:    

*This story was also featured in YFile on 28 July 2021.