Conference explores how Hakka perspectives contribute to global change

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A conference exploring the ways in which Hakka perspectives and experiences can contribute to addressing world challenges was the topic of the sixth Toronto Hakka Conference, hosted virtually by York University from July 10 and 11.

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. The conference explored how Hakka perspectives and experiences can contribute to addressing challenges the world is facing today: environmental degradation, racism, social inequality and uneven development.

Students gather online through Zoom
The “One Heart, One World: Healing the Planet Earth” conference brought together a variety of speakers committed to global learning

Driving the 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,” said Abidin Kusno, YCAR director and professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change (EUC). “We have also learned from Toronto Hakka Community how a conference can be a venue for knowledge mobilization as well as keeping a community together.”

Opened by York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton, Vivienne Poy, Joe Li (regional councillor, City of Markham) and Keith Lowe (co-founder of the Toronto Hakka Conference), the conference received congratulatory remarks from York University EUC Dean Alice Hovorka, Associate Dean Lily Cho from York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) and York Faculty of Science Dean Rui Wang. Three York faculty members – Kusno, Professor Janet Landa (LA&PS), and Professor Cary Wu (LA&PS) – were also involved in the conference as presenters or responders.

Sponsored by LA&PS, the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation (VPRI) and YCAR, as well as Hakka institutions and community organizations in Toronto, New York and other cities in the U.S. 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 the challenging time; Herbert Ho Ping Kong (professor emeritus, University of Toronto), the G. Raymond Chang Distinguished Speaker, discussed the role of medicine healing in the time of change; and Siu Leung Lee, president of the Zheng He society of the Americas, revealed the significant contribution of Chinese circumnavigation in the 15th 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, an activist, community organizer, photographer and 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 information about York University’s support for Hakka research initiatives, visit