Join the Mgrublian, Keck, and Salvatori Centers on Friday, March 6th for a one-day Atrocity Prevention Simulation. Work with expert practitioners to devise policies and strategies to de-escalate an international atrocity situation in “real-time”. RSVP now to secure your spot! Food and beverage provided. Open to all 5C students.
Published November 21, 2019 in The Student Life by Anna Choi (POM ’23), Mgrublian Center Research Fellow.
Miles away in a university not unlike ours, police are laying siege to students fighting for democracy and justice. Miles away in a city not unlike ours, civilians on the street lambaste the policemen they once trusted. Miles away, people not unlike us are struggling for the basic right to vote and freedom from arbitrary arrest.
These are the Hong Kongers who have staged major demonstrations since June 2019, who were galvanized by the proposition of a bill that would allow extradition of detained Hong Kong residents to China, according to The New York Times. Protesters, the majority of them peaceful, have united under their five major demands, according to CNN.
Currently, the most prominent demand is for an independent investigation into police brutality, as their anti-riot and arrest methods grow more and more violent each day. At the time of writing, police have laid siege to the prestigious Hong Kong Polytechnic University for five days, after protesters used the institute as a base from which to occupy a major tunnel of the city, according to Vice.
The Hong Kong police’s water cannons spray, with great force, unknown blue liquid that causes “severe skin irritation”; Greenpeace has questioned police claims that the liquid is “harmless,” according to Hong Kong Free Press. While police demand protesters leave PolyU, those attempting to escape the “war zone” are either beaten back by tear gas or immediately arrested, according to The Guardian.
More than 10,000 rounds of tear gas have been deployed by the police since protests began in June, according to the South China Morning Post. Meanwhile, local medical groups have raised concerns of dioxins released by tear gas canisters, especially after a front-line reporter was diagnosed with chloracne, according to HKFP.
The protestors haven’t been entirely peaceful either. Despite police threats of using live ammunition if protesters continued to wield “lethal weapons” against them, some protesters continue to hurtle Molotov cocktails and shoot arrows, according to NPR.
But that’s not to say that both sides deserve equal blame. We need to be careful not to claim “neutrality” and dismiss and oversimplify this situation as “violence on both sides.” Civilians and police have different roles.
When civilians commit a crime, they are arrested and disciplined under the law. By contrast, when Hong Kong policemen commit a crime, they don’t face consequences for their actions; experts say the Independent Police Complaints Council is unable to carry out its sole duty — investigate the police — despite Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam’s insistence to the contrary, according to TIME.
Further, protesters do not have the weapons police have. Protesters do not have the protective gear police have.
Protesters do not have the power to arrest. Protesters do not get paid to put their lives on the line. Protesters did not receive the professional training police received (paid for by civilians) to specifically not get emotional and not abuse their power.
Those suspected of unlawful assembly do not deserve to be beaten until they have brain hemorrhages, as The Telegraph reported happened to one student. This is not “use of force.” This is violence.
Regrettably, Hong Kong police do not believe in the presumption of innocence, let alone the freedom from violence and torture; this much is blatant in the damning investigation reports by Amnesty International.
While the police have the right and duty to use force, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “all police action shall respect the principles of legality, necessity, non-discrimination, proportionality and humanity.”
In no circumstance is kneeling on the neck of an already-subdued person an act of “necessity”; and pepper spraying a detainee’s gaping facial wounds is outright torture, as seen in a NYT video of the protests. These acts, among many others, are an atrocious violation of human rights.
When protesters become violent, police action should be proportional to that of protesters. Yet, in response to an 18-year-old swinging a metal rod, a Hong Kong policeman shot him in the chest at point-blank range, despite the availability of non-lethal weapons like pepper spray and rubber bullets available, according to an analysis by the NYT. The policeman was wearing a bulletproof vest; the protester had a plastic board as a “shield.”
We need to be careful not to mislabel police brutality as “use of force,” for this creates a facade of legality to disguise their violence. Often, outsiders viewing an unfamiliar event subconsciously defer to those in power, and such wording dangerously strengthens the police’s legitimacy, in spite of their unlawful actions.
So why, as a NYT article asks, have Hong Kong police fallen from “Asia’s finest” to unruly behavior? I believe there are two main causes.
First, police now operate with full anonymity. From June 2019 when the protests began, riot police have hidden their identity numbers, according to SCMP. In October, The Nation criticized Hong Kong police for no longer carrying their warrant cards and often wearing masks so civilians are unable to identify and file complaints against them.
Anticipating clashes with protesters on Chinese National Day, police officials loosened the guidelines on the amount of force officers should use right before the date, according to Reuters, leading to a record level of firearm deployment, with about 1,400 rounds of tear gas, 900 rubber bullets and six live rounds fired.
This lack of repercussions for misconduct and condoning of further violence demonstrate executive leaders’ aiding and abetting of police brutality.
Depressing as these events are, and uncertain as the future is, we each have the moral responsibility as global citizens to stand on the side of justice.
Apart from reading articles to stay updated, I encourage you to watch live videos of the protests (search: “Apple Daily live” on YouTube), and to discuss Hong Kong’s situation with your peers, colleagues, friends or with your family during Thanksgiving.
Hong Kong’s protests are joining with movements around the world, from Chile, to Lebanon, to Catalonia, where activists drew inspiration from Hong Kong’s protest tactics. What links can you draw between Hong Kong’s story and yours?
Miles away, weary Hong Kongers raise signs reading “SAVE US.” The least we can do is to help spread their message.
Anna Choi PO ’23 is a guest writer who was born and raised in Hong Kong. She’s the president of the Hong Kong Political Society, a recently founded activism group, and hopes to give back to the Hong Kong community from which she’s greatly benefitted.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Armenian Genocide resolution, H.Res.296, was adopted today by an overwhelming favorable bipartisan vote of 405 to 11 in the U.S. House of Representatives, reported the Armenian Assembly of America.
“The passage of H.Res. 296 by the House of Representatives reflects the best of America. It honors a proud chapter in U.S. history of humanitarian intervention. It recalls the extraordinary contributions of America’s front-line diplomats, philanthropic leaders and relief workers in helping save a people from annihilation,” stated Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny.
“Today’s watershed vote for human rights represents the culmination of decades of tireless work by Members of Congress, the Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenian American community from across the country. The purpose of this resolution is crystal clear. It formally acknowledges the Armenian Genocide. It condemns genocide denial in any form. It encourages human rights education to help prevent future genocides,” Ardouny added.
The Armenian Assembly of America has worked vigorously since the 1970s to combat the dangers of genocide denial and fully supports affirmation of the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide.
Speeches in support of the resolution were given by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD); House Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern (D-MA); House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY); House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA); Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Katherine Clark (D-MD); Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues leaders Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL); House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee Ranking Member Brad Sherman (D-CA), Senior Member Chris Smith (R-NJ); Member David Cicilline (D-RI), Member Ted Lieu (D-CA), and Member Jim Costa (D-CA); Armenian-Assyrian Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA); Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR); Rep. Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA); Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI); Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX); Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY); Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA); Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD); and Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL).
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.
UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM WARNS OF INCREASED SECTARIAN VIOLENCE IN SYRIA
WASHINGTON, DC — “For over nine years, Syrians have been crying out for help,” said Naomi Kikoler, Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. “Syrians across the country remain at risk of mass atrocities today, including in northeast Syria, Idlib province, at Rukban camp, and in government detention centers. Every effort needs to be made to halt the commission of crimes against humanity by the Russian- and Iranian-backed Assad regime; avert forced displacement of Syrian Kurds and other communities in northeast Syria by Turkey and allow those already displaced to return; prevent the forced repatriation of Syrian refugees from Turkey; and prevent ISIS from exploiting this situation to regroup.”
“The idea that ISIS, who committed genocide and crimes against humanity, may resurge and evade justice is alarming and would perpetuate cycles of violence and instability throughout the region,” continued Kikoler.
The Museum is deeply concerned about the situation in Syria and urges the prioritization of civilian protection alongside other interests in order to save lives, advance efforts to find a durable resolution, and safeguard the security of the region and the United States. A failure to prevent mass atrocities against civilians would exacerbate the humanitarian crisis and increase the risk of future sectarian conflict and terrorism.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum works to inspire citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. To learn more about the Museum’s genocide prevention efforts visit, ushmm.org/genocide.
(The above statement was posted on the USHMM website on October 21, 2019)
The Mgrublian Center for Human Rights is currently accepting applications for the 6th annual Human Rights Student Research Fellowship Program.
Research fellows work closely with a faculty advisor on a year-long (2019-20 academic year) project related to the Holocaust, human rights, or genocide studies. Fellows will be provided with office space at the Center and access to the Center’s library and other resources. Each fellowship recipient will receive a $500 stipend to be used toward research materials and/or field research expenses. Seniors working on relevant honors theses are encouraged to apply. Past fellowship projects can be found on our website.
Application process: Submit your research proposal, resume, and transcript via our website.
Application deadline: Friday, September 27th
Questions? Contact Kirsti Zitar, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mgrublian Center is now hiring Student Assistants for the 2019-20 academic year. We are looking for creative students with strong research, writing and communication skills, and a commitment to the values of the Center to serve as Student Assistants for 2019-20. Student Assistants will be involved in the following activities:
- Act as a liaison with the Center’s volunteer human rights task force groups
- Promote Center events on campus through creation of flyers and via social media
- Assist faculty with human rights research
- Update the Center’s library and maintain inventory
- Edit and create the Center’s quarterly Newsletter
Other responsibilities and duties will arise during the course of the school year. The approximate time commitment is 10 hours per week. We have openings for work-study AND non-work-study students.
This summer the Center is sponsoring 18 CMC student interns in a wide range of human rights opportunities around the globe:
Laleh Ahmad ‘20 The Enough Project – Washington, D.C.
Gabriel Blum ‘21 Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum – Riga, Latvia
Roxanne Camarena Castillo ‘21 Boys and Girls Club – Los Angeles, CA
Aditi Chitre ‘22 Child Family Health International – New Delhi, India
Jennifer Collao ‘21 Haysbert Moultrie, LLC – Los Angeles, CA
Jordana Deighton ‘22 Child Family Health International – New Delhi, India
Benjamin Dibble ‘20 The Enough Project – Washington, D.C.
Tallan Donine ‘21 POLIN Museum – Warsaw, Poland
Maxwell Fisher ‘21 Amnesty International – Washington, D.C.
Thomas Hagan ‘21 The Enough Project – Washington, D.C.
Sydney Heath ‘22 Claremont Canopy – Claremont, CA
Julia Hwang ‘21 Claremont Canopy – Claremont, CA
Lucie Kapner ‘22 Independent Holocaust Research – Washington, D.C. & France
Sami Murphy ‘21 Human Rights Watch – New York, NY
Dina Rosin ‘20 Orleans Public Defenders – New Orleans, LA
Anita Shenoi ‘20 The Carter Center – Atlanta, Georgia
Wendy Torres-Badajoz ‘21 Claremont Canopy – Claremont, CA
Hailey Wilson ‘22 Patriots Ghana – Accra, Ghana
Sponsored Internship Program: Applications are now being accepted for our 2019 Sponsored Internship program. The program provides students with grants of up to approximately $5,000 to support internships that engage undergraduates in the field(s) of human rights, Holocaust, or genocide studies. Internships may cover a wide range of activities, including: working for private or governmental organizations that promote human rights or raise awareness about related issues; undertaking research for a scholarly project (including senior theses); and developing an independent program in a field related to human rights, Holocaust, or genocide studies. Applications should be submitted online.
Application due date: March 1, 2019.
Partnered Internship Program: The Center is collaborating with leading human rights organizations to offer the following partnered internships for the summer of 2019:
Funding for these internships will be provided by the Center.
I sat down with returning Director Wendy Lower to learn more about her time on leave from the
Mgrublian Center as she directed the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s (USHMM) Mandel Center in Washington, D.C. Below is an excerpt from our conversation.
Q: What called you to the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the USHMM to pursue a leave of absence from CMC?
A: I was approached by the museum leadership and was asked to step in as interim director of the Mandel Center – mostly based on my record as a scholar in the field and my prior affiliation with the museum as a member of the academic committee, as a research fellow, and a historical consultant for their exhibitions since 1994. It was a tremendous honor to be asked to direct the Center, which is the biggest, most active research institute of Holocaust studies in the world. It is situated in one of the largest archives on the Holocaust, and as a federal museum on the National Mall, it serves millions of visitors annually.
Anita Shenoi ’20 — Claremont Canopy (Claremont, CA)
This past summer, Anita Shenoi interned for Claremont Canopy, a local grassroots organization that serves recently resettled refugees in the Inland Empire. Anita was attracted to Canopy’s quest to support newly arrived immigrants by providing valuable resources for education, employment, and community integration. The internship provided an active learning environment for Anita, where she was able to explore the financial logistics and other aspects of what makes Canopy successful.
Anita enjoyed spending time getting to know many of the families, sharing delicious meals together, attending community and religious events, and even dancing at a wedding reception! Asked of her experience this summer, Anita responded, “with its newly established non-profit status, Claremont Canopy is a wonderful example of a social organization that incorporates the vibrant talents of a community to integrate and uplift its newest members.”