The president of UR’s Chinese Students’ Association (CSA) submitted a letter of intent to student government ‘s All-Campus Judicial Council (ACJC) on Tuesday, asking that a UR College Republicans’ event on the mass incarceration of Turkic Muslims (Uighurs) in China be cancelled. Less than two hours later, the president of College Republicans released his own letter of intent on Facebook, calling for a Student Code of Conduct investigation of CSA.
A letter of intent is the first steps toward an appeal hearing and decision from ACJC, if ACJC chooses to hear the appeal. CSA’s letter came 10 days after College Republicans held an event — that some considered one-sided and anti-China — on democracy in Tibet. The event was protested beforehand with posters and during the event with handouts. (The poster featured a picture of a Tibetan monk self-immolating with behind the words “‘Freedom’ or Terrorism?”) The letter came eight days after a separate incident in Wilson Commons’ Starbucks, where visiting Tibetan monks left amid tensions sparked by a student placing a sign near them saying “Tibet is part of China.”
CSA had no involvement in the posters and distribution of documents, CSA president junior Sampson Hao said, nor in the Starbucks incident. Hao said that CSA didn’t get involved in the conversation until after the Starbucks incident, when he heard members felt uncomfortable and unsafe on campus.
“Due to the angry social media posts by UR students,” a statement from CSA read. “Largely against Chinese students, some Chinese students now feel severely threatened and targeted.”
According to Hao, the upcoming event, scheduled for Oct. 26, on the imprisonment of Uighurs in China is likely to spread more of such sentiment.
The letter of intent from College Republicans president senior Anthony Pericolo accused CSA of “giving [anti-Tibetan sentiments] a platform.”
“When [Hao] filed a Letter of Intent against the […] College Republicans, in my mind, it solidified the idea that the vitriol against Tibetan students has been institutionalized,” Pericolo’s letter said.
As evidence for a connection between the incidents and the CSA, Pericolo pointed to alleged similarities between Hao’s letter of intent and a drafted apology letter from one of the students responsible for the documents protesting the Tibet event. Pericolo also said he had screenshots from a CSA group chat on the Chinese messaging app WeChat proving a connection. Hao responded that the messages in question were one member’s initial, uninformed response to the Starbucks incident. The CSA member who sent the message — and requested anonymity to protect a family member working in government — agreed. Both Hao and the member said the message was not in a CSA chat, but a more inclusive one.
Unlike Hao’s letter, which was submitted directly to ACJC, Pericolo’s letter was posted on Facebook days before ACJC received it.
Most students learned of Hao’s letter of intent in a post made by senior Kevin Shaugnessy on the popular Facebook group Overheard at Rochester. “overseen: the college republicans being sued for holding a political event,” it read.
Shaughnessy told CT he got the letter from Se Hoon Kim, an organizer at the meeting, and that he posted it because he thought it would be funny.
While Pericolo said he’s glad the public is aware of the situation, Hao said he’s unhappy the conflict is playing out on Facebook.
“Social media is just simply not the right tool for this,” Hao said.
Hao said that CSA had been trying to get College Republicans to restructure their upcoming event so that it would present more than one perspective. Attempts at such discussions with College Republicans fell through, he said, and an email to UR administration on the matter only got a response on Wednesday, after the letter was submitted. According to Hao, a demand for cancellation was only a last resort in the absence of restructuring.
Pericolo, on the other hand, denied that CSA ever attempted to reach out for any such discussion.