Last August, politics major Rory O’Connor began his first year at Catholic University with a feeling that he was in the right place. As time has gone by, he has grown to feel even more at home.

“I enjoy all my classes,” O’Connor says. “I’m doing pretty well as far as grades go, and Catholic University is a perfect springboard for participation in all that D.C. has to offer — especially for an 18-year-old interested in foreign policy.”

When he arrived last fall for Orientation, O’Connor was already an admirer of Andrew Yeo, an associate professor of politics who directs the Asian Studies Program

“I had read some works by Andrew Yeo before I was even aware that he was a professor here,” O’Connor says. “He has some brilliant writings, especially on what’s going on in the South China Sea. It was fascinating to see someone whose works I had read.”

For various reasons, China and Sino-American relations are longtime interests of O’Connor’s. This past summer, he gained greater familiarity with the topic while working as an intern in the office of Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). 

“It was a somewhat informal arrangement,” O’Connor says. “The University of Delaware was hosting a roundtable on policy toward China and Sino-American relations. I actually wrote a number of briefs, proposed questions, proposed answers, and had some effect on the style and content of the entire discussion.”

Winning elected office isn’t O’Connor’s goal. Instead, he is fascinated by the work of the bureaucracy behind the scenes, and hopes to make an impact in that realm. Together with some like-minded friends, he is in the process of starting a 501(c)(3) organization called Students for Democracy, intended to bring attention to recent developments in Hong Kong and elsewhere.

He has worked with Hongkongers and Uighurs in the D.C. area on two major bills: the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, recently passed into law with a veto-proof majority, and the Uighur Intervention Act, which has to do with preventing the intimidation of Uighur Americans and others who are particularly vulnerable. 

“We’re working on cutting products of forced labor originating in Xinjiang, China — to which Uighurs refer as East Turkestan — out of our markets,” O’Connor says. “It’s a long process and we’re at the beginning of it, but effectively everything made there is the product of forced labor. It’s immoral and abhorrent.”

— Greg Varner, Senior Writer and Editor. He can be reached at